In a major policy shift at last night’s county workshop, County Engineer George Webb announced that Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 will be reconfigured into a multiway boulevard design similar to those that have been successfully implemented on other American arterials.
Citing Victor Dover & John Massengale’s new book and a recent meeting with livable streets transportation engineer Ian Lockwood as inspiration, Webb says reconfiguration is scheduled to break ground by end of year:
You know, I heard a lot from the New Urbanists at Congress for the New Urbanism 20 at the West Palm Beach Convention Center. The convention center is a county project and so is the new hotel going up next to it, and Okeechobee Boulevard is a county road. My Twitter feed was inundated with folks who couldn’t cross Okee safely and comfortably and I’ve been mulling over the problem ever since. The Palm Beach Post has been doing a series of stories on the fact that we have one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country. This is simply unacceptable. No more of this “stroad” masquerading as a boulevard.
East of I-95, the land uses are dense and urban enough to support a multiway boulevard. The value capture potential is there. West of I-95, it’s lined with strip malls, constant access points, and parking lots. I’m afraid there is little that can be done for that stretch of roadway until adjacent land uses fundamentally change. That area needs a complete do-over. That will be the career-defining work of my successor and the challenge I pass to them.
Webb cited examples of successful reconfiguration of the earthquake-damaged Central Freeway in San Francisco, which became Octavia Boulevard, as well as Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, New York. “Ironically, the side access lane will permit cars to flow freely in the through lanes and capacity will be increased, along with a huge boost to property values along the access lane frontage. It will become a place for people” says Webb.
Some example photos of successful multiway boulevards that Webb cited: