A grassroots effort to remake a 1.5-mile section of South Dixie Highway has gained the city’s participation, with a West Palm Beach commission vote Monday to apply for a state grant of up to $2.5 million.
The plan, drafted by Dana Little of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, would rework South Dixie from Okeechobee Boulevard to Albemarle Road, thinning it to one travel lane in each direction and adding a turn lane in the center for safety. The plan calls for lining the road and medians with trees, adding parking spaces and making much of the stretch more bicycle-friendly.
Commissioner Shanon Materio advocated for continuing the redesign toward her south end district. Little and Commissioner Paula Ryan said the Okeechobee-t0-Albemarle stretch was chosen for the initial work because neighborhood associations and businesses there provided the impetus and donations for the project.
Mayor Jeri Muoio said the city should get the first phase started and then extend work to the south end in the future.
The decision to apply for the Florida Department of Transportation “lane elimination” grant was unanimous.
“You take all the work Dana and Treasure Coast has done and put it in an application with pictures, drawings, dimensions, traffic study and data and that gets transmitted to FDOT, and FDOT determines if the changes we would like to see done meet their requirements for a road,” Ryan said. “It’s a big deal.”
P.S.: Commissioner Ryan had additional thoughts on the topic Wednesday morning:
“The City Commission voted on the submission of a Lane Elimination Application to FDOT and a subsequent application to the MPO for funding of the work that FDOT will approve. FDOT has the final say on what goes on the corridor. On the surface it looked like we are well on our way to getting changes to the corridor. I want to emphasize that although the commission approved the applications, it does not mean that the changes will occur.
“The real story is– how 4 historic neighborhoods, 2 anchoring institutions and a group of merchants came together to fund and sponsor the redesign of Dixie Hwy. To make changes along our City corridors, Broadway and Dixie, we need this kind of participation. We achieved this cooperation by having individual meetings, one on one and small groups. We came to see this as our project and chose not to wait for the City to find the money. Without a comprehensive plan to address the corridors as a Citywide Vision, it looks like special interest, special consideration and all around self-serving. I think this is why Commissioner Materio took the position she did. She wants the City to put the kind of attention needed to make changes to the rest of Dixie Highway and Broadway, my words not hers. The City needs a Holistic Comprehensive View on our infrastructure problems – City wide –and create a plan, and a vision on how to make meaningful changes. If people understand how this truly came together, more people may begin to engage in productive activism versus criticism of what the City is not doing. This is not an excuse for Government or an apology, it’s just recognizing the way the world is and finding ways to achieve success, regardless of the appearance of inactivity by government.
“Changes to Route 1 within the City of West Palm Beach, will require all those that live and or work along the corridor to come together and be the catalyst for the changes they want to see. FDOT will review for technical compliance with their over objective of keeping traffic moving. We have to look at factors related to safety of our pedestrians, bicyclists and alternative transportation users. The world has changed from the days in which Rt.1 was the only access road. We now have many more options, and it’s time we recognize that that Rt. 1 is a neighborhood street, within our City. We need to have experts in this area to help guide us to the right decisions. I hope we can use this as an example to move forward and bring in all effected parties. My first priority is to the residents and merchants. They, after all provide our tax base.”