The Florida Department of Transportation held a preconstruction open house Thursday, May 10 at Loxahatchee Groves Town Hall to discuss the upcoming project that will add two lanes to Southern Blvd. from west of Lion Country Safari Road to Forest Hill/Crestwood Blvd. The meeting was attended by about 30 local residents.
The project, beginning this month, will widen the road from four to six lanes along the 7.2-mile stretch and add buffered pedestrian and bicycle lanes.
Several residents living near the road expressed concerns about lighting and the lack of walls or berms in the plans that would limit the amount of vehicular noise to neighborhoods, which they said is already excessive.
“We’re working with them on lighting so they don’t do what they did on Seminole Pratt [Whitney Road], where they lit it up where it was bright,” said Nancy Gribble of Fox Trail, which is immediately north of Southern Blvd. west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
After numerous complaints by residents along Seminole Pratt about the lighting, the county retrofitted the lights so that they were lower, spaced farther apart and more focused on the roadway, Gribble said.
“The other concern among the residents is noise,” she said. “We talked to them about a noise wall, and they wouldn’t accommodate us at this time, based on a finding that is four or five years old.”
Gribble noted that there is much more development planned in the area, which makes a wall even more crucial.
Carline Dumornay, who lives on Tangerine Blvd., filled out a comment card and was also concerned about the noise.
“My concern about the road is the noise that it’s going to bring, especially in the afternoon when you’re coming from work and trying to relax, and all those cars will be going back and forth during rush hour,” Dumornay said. “I would like some buffering and a wall to contain the noise.”
Ken Johnson of Loxahatchee Groves said he would like semi-tractor trailers kept out of the left lane to allow faster traffic to pass. “You’ve got big trucks traveling side by side,” he said. “They should be limited to the right-hand lanes.”
Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Dave Browning said he was pleased that the town got traffic lights at important intersections along the road.
“We’ve got traffic lights at F, D and B, and those were what we were hoping for,” Browning said, adding that some complaints from residents using other intersections, such as C Road, that have to turn right and go a half mile and make a U-turn to go east, are difficult to accommodate. “It’s going to be a high-use road, and you just cannot have too many people coming straight across. I was surprised they put one at E Road. I think that might have been a mistake, but we’ll be looking at that. E is only one block down from D, and there’s a light there already.”
Loxahatchee Groves Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said she would like additional greenways for equestrians in addition to a planned pedestrian/bike path, and she is also concerned about noise from the road.
“I live right behind the [Palms West] Plaza, and I hear the traffic,” Maniglia said. “At certain times of the day it’s going to get worse, so I would suggest a nice vegetation barrier or noise reduction wall.”
She added that getting a traffic signal at D Road is important. “We’ve had so many accidents there,” she said.
Maniglia would like to get D Road paved, although FDOT turned down the town’s request, pointing out that Big Dog Ranch Rescue gave the town some money to get it paved at Okeechobee Blvd. along the Big Dog property on D Road. “It would be nice if they paved the rest of the road,” she said.
Indian Trail Improvement District Manager Rob Robinson said he was happy that the project is underway. “It’s a long time overdue,” he said. “I just hope they do it right.”
Other improvements include milling and resurfacing, drainage upgrades, curb and gutter, guardrail and pavement markings. Median access will change at Palms West Plaza west of D Road to provide safer traffic improvements.
The area surrounding the project is experiencing significant new development with a corresponding increase in population. This has resulted in growing traffic demand on Southern Blvd., which serves as a primary access route connecting residents in Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and Loxahatchee Groves.
The project is scheduled to begin this month with completion in the summer of 2021, at a cost of $33 million. The contractor is Community Asphalt. Lane closures may occur from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. One lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained at all times.