At the Jan. 19 meeting of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, Councilman David Swift reported that the State Road 7 extension to Northlake Blvd. appears to be well on its way to starting construction.
Swift has been named the new chair of the Western Communities Council, an organization made up of representatives from each of the nearby communities. At the group’s Jan. 12 meeting, attorney John Fumero provided an update on the City of West Palm Beach’s legal challenge to the project.
West Palm Beach had tried to stop construction of the road on environmental grounds, suggesting that the road, which will pass on its decades-old original alignment between West Palm Beach’s Ibis community and the West Palm Beach Water Catchment Area, would encroach on animal habitat, including that of the snail kite. Those allegations have since been refuted, Swift noted.
“Where we stand right now is that each party has provided testimony and issued their own opinions,” Swift said. “Both parties had 50-page opinions because that was the maximum you can give.”
Information was also provided to the judge on past discussions and testimony.
“To date, all that information has been provided to the judge, and we are awaiting the final order,” he said. “The final recommended order is anticipated to come in March. The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board will then issue a final order and permit, so stay tuned. In March, we hope to come to the end of this road, and the beginning of another one, if you will.”
He said that Fumero was asked if the City of West Palm Beach can continue to challenge the roadway should the judge rule in favor of the road.
“Mr. Fumero’s answer was, ‘Yes, it can, but it would not stop road construction,’” Swift said. “Any future challenge would result in corrective action but not stop work.”
Fumero also provided Western Communities Council members with copies of a recent SFWMD administrative complaint to the City of West Palm Beach for corrective action to stop the Ibis development from releasing insufficiently treated stormwater directly into the catchment area.
“The purpose of the order was to address existing water resource conditions that are negatively impacting the Grassy Waters Preserve, the source of drinking water for the City of West Palm Beach,” Swift said.
The Florida Department of Transportation has conducted numerous public meetings on the SR7 project that included consideration of alternative routes that would have bisected portions of The Acreage and were subsequently rejected.
The improvements include the widening of SR 7 from two lanes to four from Okeechobee Blvd. to 60th Street North, and the construction of a new four-lane divided roadway from 60th Street to Northlake Blvd. Bicycle lanes, sidewalks and roundabouts are included as part of the project.
The expected completion date for design is this month. The estimated construction completion date is 2019 at a cost of $60 million. A contract has not yet been awarded. For more information, visit www.sr7extension.com.
The next scheduled meeting of the Western Communities Council is on Wednesday, April 5 at 5 p.m. at the Wellington Municipal Complex.