Heading to Fort Lauderdale beach could become less of a headache for airport visitors and others.
A $35 million-plus shortcut is proposed to and from the 17th Street Causeway. The bypass would allow northbound beach-goers on Federal Highway or others coming from State Road 84 to avoid a congested section of Southeast 17th Street and its four traffic lights.
Instead, drivers could head east at the State Road 84-Spangler Boulevard intersection with U.S. 1. The bypass would follow the fringes of Port Everglades before curving to the north on Eisenhower Boulevard alongside the Broward County Convention Center and meeting up with Seventeenth Street.
Basically, it would cut away from U.S. 1 and avoid the intersection.
The plans are included in the proposals for expanding the Broward County Convention Center and building a convention center hotel. The bypass also could be used by people going to events at the convention center and avoid security checkpoints for Port Everglades.
Seventeenth Street is one of the most traffic-clogged in the city, and Fort Lauderdale officials have demanded a bypass as part of the convention center plans to keep the congestion from getting worse.
The bypass also would be a return to the days before 9/11, when people regularly traveled through the port to get to the beach. Port security checkpoints set up after 9/11 eliminated that route.
If approved by the city, the bypass could take three to four years to complete, said Assistant County Administrator Alan Cohen.
New access to 17th Street
Currently, northbound drivers on Federal Highway heading to the beach have a single right-turn lane at Seventeenth Street. The new bypass, in addition to missing four traffic signals on 17th, would have two right-turn lanes on Eisenhower Boulevard for beach traffic.
The new convention center hotel would be at the southeast corner of Eisenhower and 17th, adding to the traffic there. Drivers using the bypass would have access to the beach, convention center and hotel.
Drivers leaving the beach would be able to turn left from 17th onto Eisenhower and proceed south on the bypass before reaching the Federal Highway intersection with State Road 84
The bypass improvements also should reduce back-ups on 17th Street for people heading to the convention center and Port Everglades.
A major change is moving the security checkpoint for southbound traffic from 20th Street to Spangler Boulevard, giving more room on Eisenhower to handle port traffic coming from 17th Street.
Also, fewer port visitors would have to stop their cars at the security checkpoint. The parking lot for Terminal 4 at 20th Street would no longer be behind the checkpoint, allowing visitors to pull right, park their cars and go through security at the terminal itself.
Portions of the bypass would be elevated and include bridges. At one point a decade ago, officials considered a completely elevated bypass, which carried a price tag topping $100 million.
To save money, the proposed bypass has portions at ground level, other portions elevated on dirt enbankments and short portions with bridges.
Bridge construction is more expensive, Cohen said. The bridges also require support columns being pounded into the ground, which increases the potential that workers will come across contaminated soil that would raise costs even more, he said.
The bypass curve from Eisenhower Boulevard to Spangler Boulevard would be elevated, including an overpass, so as not to affect port traffic and other businesses on Spangler and Eisenhower boulevards. The bypass portion of the project would have one lane in each direction.
The new checkpoint for the port would be on Eisenhower just south of the bypass curve.
New road alignment
The bypass would start in the middle lanes of traffic on Spangler Boulevard at Federal Highway. A short ways later it would begin to rise on an earthen incline and a bridge over Belcher Road, before descending again to ground level on the north side of Spangler. The bypass would avoid the security checkpoint for eastbound port traffic on Spangler, which would remain at its current location.
The bypass again would elevate as it got closer to the curve at Eisenhower Boulevard.
By using Spangler and Eisenhower boulevards for the bypass, the project also would avoid interfering with the neighborhoods between the bypass and 17th Street.
New turnoff for beach traffic
Drivers coming from the airport or neighborhoods to the south would be able to separate from other heavy traffic by turning off Federal Highway at State Road 84, using Spangler Boulevard as the start of the bypass, while motorists on State Road 84 coming from the west would keep heading straight onto the bypass.
Drivers leaving the beach also would miss the tie-ups at Federal Highway and 17th Street by using the bypass.
This story will be updated. Check back for details.