City Council Hopefuls Speak Out on Traffic Woes
By Fred Hamilton
BOCA RATON – On any given weekday, getting around town can be a chore. Bumper-to-bumper traffic is becoming Boca Raton’s collective nightmare, and like the movie Groundhog Day it repeats on a daily basis.
Congestion consumes billions of gallons of fuel, wastes hundreds of billions of dollars in productivity and causes billions of stress headaches.
Residents and commuters – many who feel like they have little option – have been vocal and city officials say they are taking a multifaceted approach to address the gridlock.
Now, the candidates for the vacant seat on the City Council – Frank Chapman, Jeremy Rodgers and Jamie Sauer – are chiming in on the issue.
They all find it frustrating and some blame development downtown and lack of foresight in planning as contributing factors.
“Traffic is now frustrating and is simply going to get worse,” said Chapman, 47, a Boca Raton native who is a father of three. “The present City Council has allowed for the development of 1,443 new units in downtown Boca with more in the planning stages. That is an increase of 84 percent since 2013, and we need to stop! We need to see the impact upon our city streets and then determine a course of action.”
It is not unusual for motorists to wait more than 15 minutes to travel one mile of Palmetto Park Road from State Road A1A to Federal Highway.
Motorists navigating the stretch from State Road A1A through downtown risk being delayed by a litany of obstacles along the already-crowded main arteries. Among the hurdles: the opening and closing of the Intracoastal Waterway bridge, no dedicated left-hand-turn lanes at the major intersection closest to Fifth Avenue and Palmetto Park Road, and also traffic blocked when a train is running parallel to Dixie Highway.
Traffic woes are not just downtown but all across the city, said Sauer, 33, a mother of two sons and has a baby on the way.
The problem is in a city of 86,000 residents, there are 300,000 people on the roads during the business day, which is the busiest timeframe, she said.
Glades Road is one of the most congested roads in Palm Beach County partly because of FAU traffic and Palmetto Park Road is also crammed because some commuters use it to avoid Glades Road.
Sauer, a Realtor and former political consultant, is in favor of adjusting traffic sequencing to maximize flow and minimize stop time. This may include installing additional systems that synchronize traffic lights, she said.
“Traffic is a big issue and important to the quality of life here in Boca Raton,” she said.
Cities now view bad traffic as much more than just a nuisance for harried commuters. It is bad public relations in the never-ending competition against other cities over the quality of life. And some candidates think that out-of-control traffic congestion hurts their ability to attract new businesses. And while gridlock is the political issue of the day in some places, they pray not in Boca Raton.
Many are hopeful a new Interstate 95 interchange at Spanish River Boulevard will bring some relief. The interchange, projected to be completed in the summer of 2017, will take I-95 traffic directly to Florida Atlantic University.
“Although many parts of Boca have frustrating congestion, we all remain hopeful that the new I 95 interchange at Spanish River will relieve some congestion along Palmetto and Glades,” said Rodgers, a 36-year-old software engineer with IBM and father of three. “But downtown is a particularly vexing problem because we’ve already approved an additional 1,000 units without the available traffic or parking capacity to accommodate them.”