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PB Post article mentions I-95 interchange for us

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PB Post article mentions I-95 interchange for us

I-95 Boca bottleneck to ease (eventually)

By Chuck Mcginness

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

By the time Interstate 95 is widened to 10 lanes through most of Palm Beach County, the highway will still be eight lanes on its busiest stretch in Boca Raton.

A study is under way to add lanes south of Linton Boulevard to Palmetto Park Road, build a new interstate exit near Spanish River Boulevard and put noise walls behind five neighborhoods.

Next year, state highway engineers will iron out details of the improvements and, in 2008, send the plans to the roadway designers. But no date has been set to begin the work.

That's because the state has not budgeted the entire $162 million needed for construction.

Some money has come in dribs and drabs. Gov. Jeb Bush included $7.9 million for the interchange in his 2005 growth-management package, and an $11.4 million earmark was tucked into last year's $286.4 billion federal transportation bill.

Things are expected to change soon.

The state is pumping more money into its Strategic Intermodal System - a network of the busiest highways, airports, seaports and freight lines - to boost commerce and economic development.

"I-95 is the lifeline in South Florida for trucks," said Randy Whitfield, executive director of the Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

And a new 40,000-seat football stadium at Florida Atlantic University hinges on a new interchange at Spanish River. But it's unfair to say the interchange is being considered just so FAU can have an on-campus facility, project consultant Craig Miller said.

"We have to justify it on daily traffic, not special-event traffic," Miller said.

The last of nine pieces to widen I-95 from Delray Beach to Palm Beach Gardens is scheduled for completion in 2009. That's a year before the most optimistic starting date for the work in Boca Raton.

On the section from Congress Avenue to Palmetto Park Road, an extra travel lane will be built in each direction. Auxiliary lanes will be added between interchanges north of Glades Road.

The interchange north of Spanish River will be built before the highway widening gets under way.

Florida Atlantic Boulevard will be extended northwest of where it now ends at Spanish River. Northbound traffic will enter and exit the highway on ramps branching off the extension. Southbound traffic will travel on flyover ramps above the highway.

"It would help a lot," said FAU student Jermaine Booth, who commutes from Lauderdale Lakes. "Traffic gets real bad in the morning."

Other FAU students share Booth's frustration. Making it through the crawl on Glades Road to get to class on time is a hassle, they say.

"It can take five to 10 minutes to get here from I-95," said freshman Emil Abdo, who drives from West Palm Beach. "And it's 15 minutes or more from the turnpike. Another interchange would definitely be good."

Improvements will be made at existing interchanges. At Yamato Road, two loop ramps on the north side of the road will be replaced with straighter ramps on the south side.

Getting rid of the loop ramps will eliminate a busy merge area on westbound Yamato.

Drivers who want to head south on I-95 mix with motorists getting off northbound I-95 and traveling west on Yamato.

Today, more than 180,000 cars a day travel I-95 at Yamato. It operates at level F, the state designation for a highway with the least-favorable driving conditions. The extra lanes will ease congestion but only slightly because traffic is projected to increase about 30 percent by 2030.

Even with 10 lanes, I-95 will still be an F-rated road, but instead of a 20-minute delay, it should be only about five minutes, Miller said.

Planners are looking at several ideas to get some cars off the road, by linking the Tri-Rail station on Yamato to the north end of the FAU campus.

One proposal under review is a bus-only ramp over I-95. Entry to the ramp could be controlled electronically - much like a SunPass lane on Florida's Turnpike - to keep other vehicles from using it.

Another idea is a greenway for bicyclists and pedestrians. The pathway may be a tunnel under the highway or a bridge over I-95.

"It's important to have access for students who don't have cars," said William Cross, planning director for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

The project also includes the widening of Glades Road from six to eight lanes from Butts Road to FAU Boulevard.
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