Essentially the most very important artery pulsing into West Palm Seaside, Okeechobee Boulevard, serves many pursuits.
It collects north-south commuters from Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 95 and carries residents from the western suburbs to downtown West Palm Seaside places of work, eating places, retailers and leisure venues and the waterfront. And it feeds clients to buying facilities, automobile dealerships and different business retailers all through most of its size.
So, because the downtown enterprise middle attracts company development and homebuilding sprawls farther west to deal with their staff and execs — and because the county grows in each means — Okeechobee Boulevard feels the stress. So, now’s the time — and never 10 years from now — when our leaders must act with urgency to rethink our transportation choices. That is very true as a result of any plans they decide on will take years to implement.
Extra: How ought to Okeechobee Boulevard change to be safer and extra environment friendly?
Extra: State Highway 7’s future: Royal Palm Seaside to check how retail strip could change
The county Transportation Planning Company put out phrase final week that it’s finding out the hall and can search public enter on methods to make the boulevard extra environment friendly for motor automobiles and safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
West Palm Seaside has carried out its personal mobility research lately and has begun work to make getting across the downtown extra nice, notably for pedestrians, by de-emphasizing vehicular journey, and, in some methods, creating disincentives to it. In the meantime, Brightline, Tri-Rail and the Transit-Oriented Village undertaking additionally promise options to crowding roads with automobiles.
The boulevard is the large image, although, so far as the east-west journey that’s the bane of most South Florida metropolitan areas. As The Palm Seaside Put up’s Hannah Morse reported this week, Okeechobee sees as many as 77,000 automobiles a day and the census tracts that contact it have elevated in inhabitants by greater than 20 % in a decade, to 103,000 individuals. Rush hours aren’t fairly now, they usually’re not going to repair themselves.
Planners see a lot of choices: None are excellent, all are costly however some have extra promise than others.
The usual resolution could be to load up the boulevard with overpasses, like Southern Boulevard. The Planning Company’s govt director, Nick Uhren, calls that the “car-extreme” strategy. The county’s complete plan, which dates again a number of years, referred to as for overpasses the place Okeechobee meets State Highway 7, Jog Highway, Navy Path and Palm Seaside Lakes Boulevard.
MORE: Palm Seaside County 2030: What’s the plan for street congestion?
This plan prioritizes speedy automobile journey, on the expense of companies and residents alongside the hall. Southern Boulevard has a canal working alongside a lot of its southern aspect, so overpasses on Okeechobee, which has a full complement of companies on each side of the road, would block off roughly twice as a lot business property from simple buyer entry.
An different could be to tunnel beneath the boulevard. Elon Musk’s The Boring Firm is pioneering methods to do this, even in environments with near-surface water tables, as we have now.
Driverless automobiles and driverless car providers additionally may present an alternate, by permitting extra automobiles to pack collectively extra carefully on the prevailing roadway. Which may work, however it may additionally result in extra automobiles on the street, negating any profit. And it is arduous to foretell when that complicated expertise is perhaps prepared.
A lightweight-rail system, working down the center of the boulevard, would supply benefits over overpasses, tunnels or driverless automobiles. It might disrupt automobile site visitors however transfer extra individuals than automobiles or buses may, and will run as continuously as each six to 10 minutes. Find out how to get individuals to and from that rail system from their houses or places of work presents one other problem.
As we reported earlier this 12 months, the transit planners are proposing that when the penny gross sales tax accepted for infrastructure tasks sunsets in 2026, it may be changed with a transportation surtax. One penny out of the seven taken for gross sales tax within the county may very well be devoted to main tasks equivalent to a north-south commuter rail, east-west gentle rail, improved bus service and roadway enhancements.
The pandemic has taken commuters off the roads for now and has given many a style for distant working, maybe for the long run. But when there’s one factor we are able to wager on in South Florida, it is development. We should always do every thing we are able to to get the cash, plans and amenities in place earlier than commuters’ struggling turns into insufferable.
Anybody who desires to be taught extra in regards to the transportation company’s Okeechobee Boulevard examine, attend a digital workshop or present enter can go to www.tpaokeestudyworkshops.org or name 561-725-0800.
This text initially appeared on Palm Seaside Put up: Palm Seaside County transportation: Now’s time to weigh west-east choices for future commute