Q: With horrendous traffic and constant accidents on I-95 and U.S. 1 and other roads, why isn’t it considered a public health emergency to provide alternative and better public transport options? An example would be a tram/streetcar or bus-only lane along U.S. 1, which would encourage people to actually use it since it’s not obstructed by traffic. Obviously we can debate merits of train vs. bus, but something has to be done so that South Florida does not become unlivable. — Anil Nasta, Fort Lauderdale
A: Anil, I agree that we are in a transportation emergency. Besides the frequent accidents that you mention, I daily experience excessively long waits at lights and lane closures that bring traffic to a crawl. I watch drivers running through stop signs and cutting others off. I have to admit I have been enjoying this summer with its reduced number of cars on the road, but we all know that will change in the coming months as tourists and seasonal residents return and our streets re-congest.
I reached out to transportation planners in Broward and Palm Beach counties and felt reassured that they are on top of this. Unfortunately, the most appealing projects they are planning, such as light rail and express bus corridors, are a long way off.
Here’s a list of some upcoming projects and when they’re expected to be completed.
Commuter rail: The Florida Department of Transportation is planning commuter rail service between Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade County’s Aventura, along 11.5 miles of the FEC railroad corridor with stations in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. (2027 completion.)
Light rail: Plans call for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Port Everglades and the Broward County Convention Center to connect along a 3.5-mile electric rail line by 2028. An eventual westward extension is planned to connect the line to Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise.
Automated People Mover: A plan to overhaul Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport includes an Automated People Mover. This light rail system would ferry visitors along a 3-mile loop with stations at the airport’s terminals and parking garages. (2030 completion.)
Sawgrass Expressway to I-95 link: This plan would create high-speed lanes between Interstate 95, the Sawgrass and Florida’s Turnpike while leaving the adjacent Southwest 10th Street as a local roadway. (Construction expected to begin in 2024 and take at least six years.)
State Road 84 at Weston Road intersection improvements: Plans call for roadway widening, repaving, upgraded lighting and sign replacement. (Fall 2026 completion.)
Cypress Creek Road Tri-Rail and bus station, Fort Lauderdale: Bicyclists will appreciate these updates, including new sidewalks on North Andrews Way and resurfacing and new curb on Northwest 59th Court. (Work scheduled to begin in spring 2024.)
Copans Road improvements: From State Road 7 to 49th Terrace, pedestrians would see widened sidewalks, improved bus stops and pedestrian signals. (Winter 2024 completion.)
I-95 express lanes: An overhaul has been underway for years on one of Broward’s mammoth corridors — the stretch of highway by interstates 595 and 95. It includes new ramps, extended express lanes, wider lanes and other improvements, and is one of five construction projects to directly connect the I-595 and I-95 express lanes while extending the existing express lanes north from just south of Hollywood Boulevard to Broward Boulevard. (Spring 2025 completion.)
Rapid transit buses: A county plan includes rapid and high-frequency bus service along six north-south corridors and eight east-west corridors, with 15 miles along Oakland Park Boulevard planned as the first to be completed. (Estimated for 2028.)
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Walk, bike, bus, rail: The Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, working with municipalities and other transit agencies, has allocated $3.6 billion from 2023 to 2027 for walking and bicycling projects, bus shelters, new bus and rail vehicles, roadway widening projects along key corridors and other maintenance initiatives, said Brian Ruscher, the TPA’s deputy director of multimodal. A study will soon begin to evaluate Military Trail, Congress Avenue, Forest Hill Boulevard, Lake Worth Road, Boynton Beach Boulevard, Atlantic Avenue and Glades Road, looking at safe walking and bicycling routes, including “opportunities for micro-transit (think local transit provider Uber or Lyft services) and express bus services,” Ruscher said. Other projects include: Atlantic Avenue widening from S.R. 7 to Jog Road (2024); Lyons Road widening south of Atlantic Avenue (under construction now); U.S. 1 safety improvements (after 2027) and S.R. A1A resurfacing projects (2024-25).
U.S. 1 from Broward/Palm Beach county line north to Yamato Road, Boca Raton: Drivers getting stuck at long lights would see improved traffic signaling along 6 miles of U.S. 1, with the help of closed-circuit cameras and traffic signals that detect bicyclists and pedestrians. (Summer 2024.)
Military Trail at Forest Hill Boulevard improvement project: Additional turn lanes, new bike lanes, improved sidewalks and driveways are in the works. (Winter 2024.)
I-95 express lanes: The FDOT has been working its way north from Miami-Dade and Broward to add express lanes in Palm Beach County. Construction now includes lanes from south of Glades Road in Boca Raton to south of Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach. There will be two express lanes in each direction. (Completion later this year.)
SO MANY QUESTIONS …
All this transportation construction raises so many questions. Are South Florida motorists willing to make room on our streets for bicyclists, pedestrians, buses and new rail lines? Will improved bus and rail systems motivate drivers to give up their cars? And will these very expensive projects make a significant difference in our quality of life?
It’s hard to imagine South Florida without our very car-centric culture. But we can always dream.
Got a question about life in South Florida? Send to AskLois@sunsentinel.com.