The much awaited face lift of Federal Highway in Delray Beach is about to begin.

The much awaited face lift of Federal Highway in Delray
Beach
is about to begin.

Almost 11 years after the project was conceived, crews are expected to begin
improvements Monday: landscaped medians, decorative street lighting and paver
sidewalks along northbound and southbound U.S. 1 from George Bush Boulevard to
Southeast 10th Street — all to create a friendlier pedestrian environment and
reduce the speed of cars heading downtown.

In addition to giving the stretch of highway a new look, the project will
narrow the street from three to two lanes in each direction, and will convert
Southeast First Street into a two-way street from Swinton Avenue to Federal
Highway.

“One of the main goals was to reduce speeds on Federal Highway, which
will result in fewer crashes — and that’s our number one objective,” said
Jim Smith, who is chairman of Safety As Floridians Expect, a group that
advocates for pedestrians and bicyclists. “Federal Highway is two lanes
throughout Boca
Raton
and all the way up to West Palm Beach. We were the only stretch that
had three lanes and the other segments operate successfully.”

The project was conceived in 2002 as part of the downtown master plan. In
March 2008, city officials closed off one lane of southbound and northbound
U.S. 1, between Southeast 10th Street and George Bush Boulevard, to install
temporary barriers.

City officials then studied the effect of the narrower lanes on accident
rates, new signal-timing plans for on-peak and off-season traffic and driving
speeds.

According to the data, drivers along that stretch of U.S. 1 slowed by about
6 miles per hour. Crashes on that stretch were reduced by 50 percent, and
crashes at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue were reduced by 75 percent.

“There definitely have been fewer crashes,” Smith said.
“There has been remarkable improvement.”

Part of why the nearly $14 million project has taken so long is money. The
project was put on hold in 2011 while the city sought a loan from the Florida
Department of Transportation’s State Infrastructure Bank to fund a gap in the
cost of the project.

However, last year the Delray
Beach
Community Redevelopment Agency agreed to pick up the rest of the tab.
The CRA board agreed to provide $3.6 million for construction of the project,
but over the years it also has funded the design and the temporary poles that
narrowed the street for a trial period, said CRA Assistant Executive Director
Jeff Costello.

The rest of the money for the project came from a variety of sources, said
Project Manager Tim Tack. Developers contributed about $178,000, while $7.2
million came from federal and state grants. The city contributed about $1.7
million.

Construction crews have about 24 months to complete the project, Tack said.

“I guess it will be inconvenient while the work is going on, but I’m
sure it will be nice in the end,” said Cecilia Raymond, who lives in
nearby Osceola Park. “I walk to the bus down here every day. Wider sidewalks
could be a great thing for those of us who walk to work. It will be
prettier.”

(taken from Sun Sentinel.com)