By Margie Plunkett
Delray Beach commissioners gave staff the go-ahead on permanent design changes to U.S. 1 at Atlantic Avenue, an $11 million project that reduces the highway to two lanes from three in each direction for better traffic and pedestrian safety. The design, which has already been implemented temporarily between SE 10th Street and George Bush Boulevard, would be funded with state and federal money if all requests come through, City Engineer Randal L. Krejcarek told commissioners at their May meeting. All commissioners backed the changes, but they also raised questions of when other areas in the city would get development. “I think we have to have some movement near [Interstate] 95. I haven’t seen it,” said Deputy Vice Mayor Mack Bernard.
The temporary U.S. 1 changes allowed observation of pedestrian and car traffic under the plan, which was intended to improve traffic safety, control speeds, beautify the highway with landscaping and make it pedestrian friendly.
Data collected in a study of the intersection since the temporary change show traffic volume was lower in 2009 than 2007; traffic speeds were 6 mph slower; and crashes were reduced by about 50 percent, the city engineer said. When asked about gridlock, Krejcarek said the city had to adjust timing of the traffic lights. Delray Beach is admired for its vision, Vice Mayor Gary Eliopoulous said, also noting, “This is design 101. You don’t take your best asset and have your pedestrians crossing four lanes of traffic to it.” And slowing the traffic shows off retail to vehicle occupants. If the permanent change moves forward, construction could begin in 2011.
Construction funding, committed or requested, in the amount of $4 million would come from state funds for resurfacing projects; $6.65 million from federal transportation bill earmarks and an enhancement grant; and $350,000 from development projects. “If the House and Senate can agree on the next transportation bill, it should go for a vote in the September time frame,” Krejcarek said.
The CRA would pay for design costs, which run about 10 percent of the project, Krejcarek said. The design is part of the Delray Beach master plan adopted in 2002.