Dozens of residents, public officials, organizations and other interested individuals met Monday evening to discuss the proposed design of the Southern Boulevard replacement bridge.
The new bridge will have 6-foot-wide sidewalks in each direction, 10-foot-wide paved shoulders with bike lanes and a left-turn lane from the bridge onto Flagler Drive among other improvements. Once complete, the bridge will extend from Washington Road to SR A1A (South Ocean Boulevard).
Traffic and safety seemed to be the main concerns.
“My concern would be how many bridges are going to be under construction at one time and what that means for traffic,” said Phil Materio, a West Palm Beach resident who lives close to the bridge.
Vanita Saini, design project manager, said construction is scheduled to begin in 2015. She said if the Flagler Memorial Bridge is still at the point where traffic is an issue, construction on the new Southern Boulevard bridge would be put on hold.
“We’re trying to keep traffic the same as it is,” she said.
Some residents also were concerned how traffic would be impacted with just the new bridge construction.
Elizabeth Marshall, a landscape architect in West Palm Beach, said she was concerned with parking changes. While no parking spaces are being removed with the new design, one parking lot along the span will be moved from the south side of the bridge to the north. She said she was concerned that health, safety and public welfare would be affected by having the parking lot on the opposite side of the beach.
“Tons of families, kayakers, bikers, people having picnics and others use that beach,” she said. “Now they will have to cross an incredibly busy and heavy volume street to get there.”
Department of Transportation representatives said they will work with Marshall and others to come up with solutions to the problem.
Michael Roefaro of West Palm Beach was concerned with noise and the view.
“Our view will be cut off from the West Palm side while on the [Donald] Trump side, they’re leaving it where it is,” he said.
John Olson, a DOT representative, said as part of the new design plan, the existing movable bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway will be replaced with a new two-lane bridge. The new bridge will be constructed north of the existing bridge and be about 13 feet higher.
Another concern was safety.
Gail Levine of West Palm Beach said she was worried the new pedestrian-friendly bridge also would attract more homeless residents to the area.
“The main thing I wanted was for them to keep in mind the security and safety of citizens when building the bridge,” she said.
Residents with questions about the bridge design project can contact Saini at (954) 777-4468 or by email at Vanita.Saini@dot.state.fl.us.