The heavily traveled ‘free flow’ lane at the southeast corner of Federal Highway and Southeast Mizner Boulevard will be replaced this summer with a squared-off right-turn lane. Pedestrian crosswalks at the intersection will be improved. Photo provided/Google Maps
By Mary Hladky
A busy downtown intersection soon will be redesigned with the intent of making it safer and pedestrian-friendly.
The city plans to eliminate a “free flow” lane that allows drivers northbound on Federal Highway to use the lane to turn east onto Southeast Mizner Boulevard, bypassing the intersection of Federal and Mizner.
The new interchange configuration will have drivers turning east onto Mizner from a right-turn lane at the intersection. Pedestrian crosswalks across Mizner and Federal also will be improved.
The change has been discussed for at least five years, but Boca Raton officials were spurred to take action because traffic on Mizner is increasing with new development in the area — especially the construction of the 384-unit Alina Residences luxury condominiums at 300 SE Mizner Blvd. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed late this year.
Residents of Townsend Place condominiums at 500 SE Mizner Blvd. have long complained about fast traffic on the street and the lack of crosswalks to allow pedestrians to safely cross to Royal Palm Place.
Negotiations between the city and Alina developer El-Ad National Properties resulted in an agreement that El-Ad provide a crosswalk across Mizner.
City Council members, sitting as Community Redevelopment Agency commissioners, unanimously approved the new design on Jan. 27, and the City Council did the same on Jan. 28. The Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved the change on Jan. 9.
“It is a clear win for everyone,” said Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers.
Because Federal Highway is a state road, the Florida Department of Transportation weighed in on the change. A department road safety audit concluded the current intersection design is unsafe for drivers and pedestrians, and one of its recommendations was to eliminate the “free flow” lane.
Kimley-Horn and Associates, the city’s engineering consultant, also analyzed the change and concluded it would improve safety.
Architect Derek Vander Ploeg, a member of the Downtown Advisory Committee, told Planning and Zoning Board members that the change “is long overdue.”
Construction is expected to begin in June and be completed by the end of September.