PBC Planning Commission Supports Eventual Widening Of Several Area Roadways

The Palm Beach County Planning Commission voted Friday, Dec. 11 to recommend transmission of several county-initiated amendments to its thoroughfare identification map (TIM) that affect parts of the western communities.

The changes include the widening of the 60th Street North easement along the M Canal from 80 feet to 100 feet between 120th Avenue North and 140th Avenue North, the addition of an 80-foot roadway segment from Southern Blvd. to the future extension of Okeechobee Blvd. about two miles west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, and widening Northlake Blvd. from 120 feet to 142 feet between the end of the proposed State Road 7 extension to the east end of the current 240-foot right of way on Northlake Blvd.

The TIM is a long-range plan included in the county’s comprehensive plan to identify future roadway needs for state, county and municipal roadways.

Roadway Production Engineer Morton Rose said the 60th Street segment is immediately south of the M Canal, which supplies water to the City of West Palm Beach.

“The 80-foot section is for five lanes,” Rose said. “We aren’t able to construct the five lanes within the existing 80 feet because of the proximity of the canal. One of the requirements of the City of West Palm Beach is that because of the importance of this canal, a buffer be provided.”

Rose pointed out that the portion of 60th Street North is residential on the south side. “That is where the additional 20 feet is going to be coming from,” he said.

The planned connection from the proposed Okeechobee Blvd. to Southern Blvd. does not exist now, he said, explaining that the connection would alleviate traffic blockage in the event of a traffic incident in that area, such as a recent force main failure that occurred at the southern end of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road that shut down the road for most of the day.

The section of Northlake Blvd. proposed for widening is a major thoroughfare, he said. “The current 120 feet supports six lanes. Based on future traffic projections, this segment would need to be widened to eight lanes eventually,” Rose said.

County staff said that if the proposed amendments are approved by the Palm Beach County Commission, the work would be done over the next five to 25 years as needed and are not currently funded in the county’s five-year program.

During public comment, Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Lisa El-Ramey pointed out that the proposed Okeechobee Blvd. to Southern Blvd. connection is through an active area of agriculture and horse farms.

“It’s interesting that the county sees this as an undeveloped portion of the county,” El-Ramey said. “It’s actually the home of an industry. That industry is the number-one industry in the county, and that’s agriculture. Horses need land and agriculture needs land.”

Indian Trail Improvement District President Betty Argue said adding easements to the TIM provides developers a tool to apply for more development and pointed out that ITID is not notified of many proposed traffic improvements that affect it.

After discussion by commission members, Commissioner David Dinin made a motion to recommend approval of the amendments, which carried 10-1 with Commissioner Edwin Ferguson objecting.

The proposed amendments will go before the county commission to consider on Jan. 25.