By: Jill Fox
Currently in the development and environmental study phase of the proposed Sawgrass Expressway connector which will provide the missing link on the roadway, the federal department of transportation’s focus now is on public outreach.
Cassie Piche, senior engineer with FDOT addressed attendees at November’s Parkland Chamber of Commerce meeting regarding the connector which would extend the Sawgrass Expressway from the Florida Turnpike to I-95 and how it will alleviate the safety and operational issues caused by the current congestion.
Because traffic has increased over the past 20 years and is forecasted to continue to increase due to population and economic growth within the entire region, Piche said that they weren’t designing for today, but for 20 to 25 years into the future.
She said that not only will it be a connector project, but it will be a project for the local communities who will be affected.
“If we do nothing, there will be widespread congestion; from 52,000 to 60,000 vehicles a day – and extremely unpredictable delays.”
Evan Wolk, president of the chamber said that it was obvious that a permanent long-term solution was required after worsening traffic delays, safety issues and delayed responses of emergency vehicles.
Wolk, a member of the community oversight advisory team, helps make recommendations on the project.
The goals of the project are not only to increase connectivity between the highways, but to enhance Southwest 10th Street for businesses and communities as well as to provide additional lanes for bicycles and pedestrians. Also, in case of a hurricane, it would be an emergency evacuation route for those who reside in the east.
The project alternatives have been developed with input from the public, the local government and the communities along the corridor and are designed to minimize impacts to the environment.
The proposal includes building two facilities within the same corridor; one being the managed lanes, which would be high-speed, nonstop lanes between the Sawgrass Expressway and I-95. The second being a new local Southwest 10th Street roadway, with lower speed and access to the local roads and communities, allowing for no congestion and very reliable travel time through the corridor.
“We’re still going to be congested along Southwest 10th Street, but we’re taking a lot of that traffic off of it and putting it on the managed lanes,” said Piche.
A section or more of these managed lanes would be below grade – or underground. Based on feedback that FDOT has received, the community is hesitant about this due to impacts to business and utilities, and further complicated construction. On the other hand, residents from Century Village and surrounding Deerfield Beach neighborhoods have expressed that they do not want “flyovers” near their homes.
Currently, the committee is evaluating various designs and comparing the engineering, social, and environmental effects of each alternative.
After the development and environmental study phase, a public hearing will be held in April, and after that, they hope to move into the final design phase.
Wolk said, “The current traffic situation is terrible, but if you look at the future traffic projections, the cost of inaction will be compounded for both the residents of the corridor and the surrounding communities as spillover traffic will continue to clog other east-west thoroughfares, such as Sample Road and Hillsboro Blvd.”
Each portion of the project is estimated at about $300 million, but it’s dependent on what they actually decide to build, and how much of it is below ground. Fortunately, a combination of state and local funds have already been set aside.
FDOT plans to begin the construction phase in 2022, and the project should take about three years to build.
The next step is a public workshop on November 29, where residents have an opportunity to comment and provide input. The workshop will have an open house format and staff will be available to answer questions and provide assistance at any time. This will take place from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Deerfield Beach located at 100 Fairway Drive.
Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She is currently a Senior Account Director at Lon Haber & Co., a leading full-service public relations firm. Fox worked at NBC Miami for eight years after graduating from the University of Miami. She lives in Parkland with her husband, Brian and two children.