At a meeting of the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency on Thursday, Dec. 17, Florida Department of Transportation representative Scott Peterson reviewed changes to the State Road 7 extension project that his agency feels may resolve challenges that have been raised by the City of West Palm Beach.
“In 2018, this project was let to construction,” Peterson said. “Due to some concerns, legal challenges raised by the city, the department has spent the last year-plus refining the design, trying to alleviate those concerns. I’m back before you to discuss what those changes are and how they have affected both the design and the cost.”
He said the alignment and location has not changed, but the footprint and environmental impact have been reduced to eliminate outfall to the Ibis Golf & Country Club lake system west of the projected easement, which was one concern that was raised. Retaining walls and swales have also been minimized.
The extension remains four lanes, but a swale on the east side was removed, as well as one of the two sidewalks that were on each side of the road, replaced by a shared use path on the east side. The median width was reduced, effectively reducing the overall width of the easement from 94.5 feet to 84.5 feet.
“In the previous incarnation, there was a sidewalk on each side, so it’s less of a footprint to have a shared use path than two sidewalks,” Peterson said.
A wet conveyance channel was added to replace a dry swale that would have discharged to Ibis, he explained.
“One of the ways that we were able to eliminate the outfall to Ibis was to detain the water onsite before it ultimately drains to the north,” Peterson said. “One thing, which was not known in 2018 but had to be addressed was that FEMA has updated its flood map, and we had to address those changes.”
The estimated construction cost has increased from $20.4 million to $23.2 million for the segment from Okeechobee Blvd. to the roundabout at 60th Street North, and from $50.3 million to $56.7 million from the roundabout to Northlake Blvd.
“Some of that was due to the FEMA maps changing and having to provide flood plain compensation,” Peterson said. “Some of that is due to unit prices increasing as the years go by. Some of it is due to the fact that we had to add walls to reduce the footprint.”
He said that FDOT submitted an updated footprint to the South Florida Water Management District in September and will submit the plan to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers next month.
“We are on track to complete the plans in May, with a letting in September 2021,” Peterson said.
The report was accepted without comment from agency members or the public.
Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto currently serves as chair of the TPA’s governing board. He said that he hopes the proposed changes would mitigate challenges presented by the City of West Palm Beach.
“It seems to me that there was an attempt made by FDOT to address some of the many concerns, environmental concerns in particular, that were raised by West Palm Beach, and it looks like you went back to the drawing board to try to address those issues,” Pinto said.