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The price tag for the long-awaited expansion of congested Lyons Road could cost an additional $400,000 per development, which residents say is just another slight against the rapidly growing West Boynton communities.
The wider road should have been in place years ago, they say, as new home construction has outpaced the building of roads, schools, parks and fire stations to support more residents.
Palm Beach County plans to expand Lyons Road to two lanes in each direction from Boynton Beach Boulevard to Atlantic Avenue. Serving as the main north-south road in the area and not having any access points along that stretch, Lyons Road frequently becomes a traffic nightmare with cars routinely bottlenecking on the road.
The $10 million project will be split in two phases with construction beginning in 2023. Crews will first renovate the three-mile stretch from Boynton Beach Blvd. to Flavor Pict Road. Construction on the 2.4-mile stretch from Flavor Pict Road to Atlantic Avenue is scheduled to begin in 2025.
While the county will pay for most of those costs, the point of contention is building dedicated right-hand turn lanes into each community. To create those lanes, utility boxes for companies such as Comcast and AT&T will have to be removed.
County policy dictates that communities have to negotiate and pay those removal costs because the right-turn lanes only benefit residents of those respective communities, County Engineer David Ricks said.
That means communities adjacent to Lyons Road, such as Valencia Reserve and Valencia Sound, could pay as much as $400,000, according to Beth Rappaport, President of Coalition of West Boynton Residential Association. Communities have to separately negotiate those costs directly with the utility companies and have to reach agreements by September if they want the right-turn lanes included, Ricks said.
“We’ve been waiting 20 years for a middle school,” Rappaport said. “It’s finally supposed to open in two years. We’ve been waiting 20 years for a park and finally they broke ground on it this year. We don’t have a civic center, ball fields, all the things that go into making a community a community. And our residents have to travel out of the area to get what they need.
“And of course [the turn-lane issue] is the latest. It’s just unacceptable. It’s simply the last straw.”
County Commissioner Maria Sachs, who was elected to represent the district in November, said she met with the county engineering staff recently to discuss the issue and hopes to reach a solution, but conceded it could take a while to fix.
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Sachs said the larger problem is that the facilities and services needed to support a community aren’t keeping pace with development in Palm Beach County, leading to situations like this where taxpayers have to pay additional costs after the fact.
In addition to the traffic problems, West Boynton has gone without a fire station for years, leading to lengthy response times which are further compounded by the narrow Lyons Road. Plans are now being finalized to build a temporary fire station by Lyons and Flavor Pict Road.
These issues become more prevalent in the Agriculture Reserve since that’s one of the only areas in the county that still has room for development.
“We can’t continue to build a county that’s haphazard like this,” Sachs said. “It just doesn’t work. And now we see the result of it with the way it’s going on.”
She proposes a different a policy: “Find out how many people are going to live in a planned community. They know how many houses they have to build because they have to account for it in the permits. Then do the math, make the roadways part of the infrastructure before you build.”
“You can’t let developers build or even put a shovel in the ground until we know we have a roadway that’s broad enough to handle the traffic and also that we know we have a fire station close by and schools that are available for people to use.”