The way traffic backs up at rush hour on PGA Boulevard near the Gardens Mall has the attention of state transportation planners.
And the fix is in.
A $7 million solution could be under construction by late 2023, the same time as construction on a $10.5 million project at I-95 and Indiantown Road in Jupiter.
North county also is in line for a new interchange at Central Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens, but that work is not even scheduled to begin until fiscal year 2029, at the earliest.
So while projects up and down the interstate from Linton Boulevard to Northlake compete for scarce state construction dollars, north county could see work on two of its most important interchanges in the next four years.
Drivers on PGA seeking to go south on Interstate 95 routinely jostle for position to get into the right lane to take the long flyover ramp onto the highway.
But the ramp backs up, stopping cars as far back as PGA and, as anyone who has driven there in the afternoon rush hour knows, the so-called “spillback” stalls traffic across all three westbound lanes as drivers make a last-minute dash for the highway entrance.
The cure, state planners say, isn’t to add more lanes on PGA — a costly suggestion — but rather to give drivers more room to merge once they enter the main highway.
Those entering via the ramp will have their own, dedicated merge lane on I-95 and won’t have to merge into the main traffic flow as quickly as they do now.
Traffic entering the highway from eastbound PGA, which now has a lane that extends all the way to Northlake, will merge with the flyover traffic into that newly redrawn lane.
If the merge is smoother, planners expect less traffic backing up on the ramp. Whether that relieves the bottleneck on the ramp where PGA traffic meets traffic from Alternate A1A remains to be seen.
What about Indiantown Road?
Work also is scheduled to start in 2024 on $10.4 million in improvements to Indiantown Road and I-95. The northbound I-95 exit ramp to eastbound Indiantown Road would be widened to three lanes with a stoplight. Eastbound Indiantown would be widened to four lanes from I-95 to the stoplight at Central Boulevard.
Westbound Indiantown also would be widened to four lanes beginning at the entrance of the Jupiter West Plaza, home to Panera Bread and Duffy’s Sports Grill. The first and second lanes would be straight west only, the third lane would provide access to northbound or southbound I-95 while the fourth lane would be southbound only.
Jupiter has agreed to pay half the cost of adding lanes to Indiantown, a projected $3.77 million expense. Since that money already is available, town Councilman Jim Kuretski asked the state at a January transportation planning meeting to keep the project on track for 2023.
“Is that fair to us?” Kuretski asked in an interview. “They have our money and now they’re going to wait.”
Also on a seemingly slow track is a $56 million project to add lanes at Northlake Boulevard and I-95. Initially planned for 2022, that project is now scheduled for construction in 2026, and could slip.
Central Boulevard still in the plan
The north county project that has the highest price tag of any planned for I-95 calls for a new interchange at Central Boulevard, which is between PGA Boulevard and Donald Ross Road.
The project has been discussed since 2012, at least, and it wasn’t clear if the new interchange would call for the elimination of the northbound entrance-only ramp at Military Trail, north of PGA Boulevard. However, recent drawings show the ramp in place, woven together with a Central Boulevard off-ramp to still allow access to the highway from Military Trail.
Central stands to be the first new interchange in the county since Spanish River Boulevard in Boca Raton, which opened in 2017.
Central is unusual because the road runs north-south and the interchange would not provide immediate access to an east-west road. The nearest east-west roads are PGA Boulevard and Hood Road.
The idea, a 2015 FDOT study found, is to relieve congestion on PGA Boulevard. The study noted that the cost of expanding PGA is greater than building a new interchange at Central.
Thanks for reading. For more on plans for I-95 throughout Palm Beach County, check out “The intersection of bad to worse: I-95 fixes stuck in the slow lane.”
For the latest on Northlake Boulevard see “Running on empty: No fix in sight for Northlake at I-95.”
Copyright © 2021 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.