The Western Communities Council will hold a special meeting Wednesday, Jan. 14 to collect resolutions from members showing continued support for the completion of State Road 7 to Northlake Blvd., despite a recent curveball from the Florida Department of Transportation temporarily reallocating the funding that had been budgeted for 2016 to 2020.
The WCC, made up of representatives from each of the western communities, was informed last month that the FDOT has delayed financing as originally planned as a result of anticipated litigation from the City of West Palm Beach. Further, the department had redistributed some of the funding, including $20 million for a temporary bridge on Southern Blvd. connecting to the Town of Palm Beach, and for widening the SR 7 extension from Okeechobee Blvd. to Persimmon Blvd. to four lanes, rather than completing the northern section to Northlake Blvd.
The Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization passed a resolution objecting to the reallocation of the funding, and at the last WCC meeting, Indian Trail Improvement District Supervisor Michelle Damone, who serves as the group’s SR 7 liaison, suggested drafting a resolution supporting the MPO’s objections.
“We’re getting support from our boards so we can submit the Western Communities Council support resolution to the MPO and Board of County Commissioners,” Damone told the Town-Crier on Tuesday. “I’m actually going to take the resolution to present it to the Board of County Commissioners.”
The resolution will also be sent to the FDOT.
Damone said local support for the completion of SR 7 to Northlake Blvd. has not flagged, except among some individuals who believe that the extension is designed to support the Minto West project on the former Callery-Judge Grove property. She explained that the SR 7 project has existed for several decades, long before Minto West came along.
“The Western Communities Council meeting is a special meeting only on State Road 7,” Damone said. “That’s so we can compile all the support from all the individuals, municipal boards and district boards, and we’ll present a formal resolution to the Board of County Commissioners and the Metropolitan Planning Organization.”
The WCC will also be asking for additional financing from members to extend the service of their lobbyist Terry Lewis with Lewis, Longman & Walker to push for continued funding of the northern leg of the SR 7 extension to Northlake Blvd., rather than reallocate the funding.
The City of West Palm Beach has continued to fight the northern leg, which will run along the east side of the Ibis community, where West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio lives.
The city has objected to the road on environmental grounds, contending that the project will jeopardize the habitat of the Everglades snail kite, although the FDOT last month issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) report to the Federal Highway Administration.
Attorney Bob Diffenderfer with Lewis, Longman & Walker told the WCC that he anticipates that the FHA will sign off on the FONSI report early this year.
Damone stressed that the funding for the project is still approved, although it has been delayed for now.
On Wednesday, the county held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its second leg of the SR 7 extension from Persimmon Blvd. to 60th Street North, and continuing west on 60th Street to Royal Palm Beach Blvd. Construction of 60th Street North from 120th Avenue North to Royal Palm Beach Blvd., and replacement of the existing Royal Palm Beach Blvd. bridge over the M Canal, is scheduled to begin this spring.
The county paid $25.5 million for the southern portion of the extension from Okeechobee Blvd. to Persimmon Blvd., including $10 million in impact fees, and $14.5 million for the north section from Persimmon to Royal Palm Beach Blvd., which included $9 million in impact fees.