Starting at 8PM tonight, Okeechobee Boulevard will be closed at the at the Florida East Coast tracks (alongside Quadrille Boulevard) to allow construction crews to work around the clock and install a second set of tracks and equipment needed to put in a quiet zone for the introduction of the Brightline passenger rail service.
Where & Okeechobee Boulevard and the Florida East Coast Railway
When: Friday, May 13, 8 p.m. through Tuesday, May 17, 6 p.m.
As Okeechobee Boulevard is the main artery into downtown for vehicular traffic, it has the potential to cause traffic delays. Thankfully the City of West Palm Beach as well as All Aboard Florida have put out a LOT of information to the public so that you can relax on your way to work:
Palm Beach Post has also put out a lot of important information on their “Big Shutdown” page.
How to navigate around the closure
Here are some pointers from the City on how to navigate around this closure:
- If you’re on I-95, heading to downtown West Palm Beach please avoid Okeechobee and consider exiting at Palm Beach Lakes Blvd, Southern Blvd, or Belvedere Road.
- Access to eastbound Okeechobee Blvd from Australian Avenue WILL BE CLOSED
- Avoid using Okeechobee Boulevard to access downtown West Palm Beach.
- Traffic heading to the Town of Palm Beach should avoid Okeechobee Blvd. Consider Southern Boulevard & the south bridge.
- Traffic heading to downtown West Palm Beach will be detoured onto Tamarind/Parker Avenues for alternative routes. Consider Fern Street or Clematis Street.
- Banyan Boulevard is expected to have extraordinarily high traffic due to drivers coming from Australian Avenue.
- Drivers headed to the Convention Center, Hilton Hotel, CityPlace, CityPlace Tower or the Kravis Center can take Quadrille Blvd to either Hibiscus Street or Gardenia Street and head south on Rosemary Avenue.
Practical guidelines from the Mayor
- Avoid rush hour – come in earlier / later, leave earlier or later.
- Be flexible – If you’re a business owner allow your employees to set work hours that allow them to be off the roads during rush hour
- Use Tri-Rail during the closure – the city will be adding additional trolley service between the Tri-Rail station and downtown so wait times will be reduced.
- Tri-Rail riders will be able to exchange their ticket discounts on coffee at Starbucks, SubCulture & C-Street Cafe.
- Carpool and park for free at the City’s Clematis Street Garage and Banyan Street Garage. Exit before 7pm and give the voucher you recieved when coming in to the attendant.
- Have patience
Detour Information from All Aboard Florida
Click on the below images for larger versions.
Okeechobee Boulevard grade crossing closure FAQ
Question: Why is this necessary?
AAF Answer: As part of the construction improvements for the introduction of Brightline passenger service, All Aboard Florida (AAF) is double tracking the corridor and upgrading every grade crossing between Miami and West Palm Beach to increase safety. Each crossing must be completely closed to vehicular traffic as the entire rail and road bed is replaced – meaning there is no roadway for cars to drive across while work is occurring. While the grade crossing is under construction, AAF is also installing the infrastructure needed for quiet zones as part of the partnership with the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Question: How were these dates selected?
AAF Answer: Through close coordination with the City of West Palm Beach and Town of Palm Beach and a comprehensive review of dates and activities happening in downtown West Palm Beach, it was determined the least impactful dates for the full closure of Okeechobee Boulevard are Friday, May 13, 8 p.m. through Tuesday, May 17, 6 p.m.
Question: Who is involved in the planning?
AAF Answer: Each closure requires a significant amount of planning and coordination. AAF has been meeting with the City of West Palm Beach, Town of Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Flagler Memorial Bridge construction team and emergency responders to discuss the closure.
Question: Will work be completed on time?
AAF Answer: AAF is allocating the majority of its construction resources toward this closure. Crews will be working 24 hours to ensure the crossing opens by 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17.
Question: Why can’t the crossing closure only happen at night?
AAF Answer: The improvements require removing the entire roadway surface, moving the track and installing a second track. While this work is occurring, there is no roadway for motor vehicles to use, therefore a continuous closure is required.
Question: How do I get downtown while the crossing is closed?
AAF Answer: The detour maps are available on the AAF website, www.AllAboardFlorida.com. Remember to give ample travel time during this period, as there may be increased traffic.
Question: How will drivers be notified of changes?
AAF Answer: AAF is working closely with the City of West Palm Beach, Town of Palm Beach, FDOT and Palm Beach County to communicate all information regarding the closure. Vehicle Message Boards on I-95 will display up-to-date information about closures, and the media will be constantly informed if there are updates.
Question: Why does this work need to happen now?
AAF Answer: There are several infrastructure improvements that need to be made to the railway so Brightline can receive its trains later this year and begin testing. Upgrading the Okeechobee Boulevard closure at this time is of critical importance to the construction schedule.
Question: Will other crossings in West Palm Beach be closed?
AAF Answer: No. AAF will only work on Okeechobee Boulevard in the City of West Palm Beach during these dates.
Question: What about emergency responders?
AAF Answer: Emergency personnel from the City of West Palm Beach and the Town of Palm Beach have been involved in every step of planning this closure. Emergency responders will still be able to access all properties and businesses during the closure, and they are fully informed about detour routes.
Question: Will police be on scene to handle traffic?
AAF Answer: Yes, AAF will have multiple off-duty officers on site to help manage and direct traffic at the grade crossing intersection. However, motorists are encouraged to avoid taking Okeechobee Boulevard unless their destination is adjacent.
Question: Will this impact freight traffic and its interaction with motorists?
AAF Answer: AAF and FECR are in constant communication regarding all construction activities. There should not be a noticeable impact to freight service and its impact on traffic while work is underway.
Question: Who can I speak with about the closure?
AAF Answer: The AAF contact is Public Affairs Manager Ali Soule, 305-520-2105. The City of West Palm Beach contact is Communications Director Elliot Cohen, 561-822-1411. Always remember to dial 911 in case of an emergency.
Question: Where can I see a schedule for upcoming grade crossing closure?
AAF Answer: Schedule information can be found here, http://allaboardflorida.com/construction/grade-crossings.
On Wednesday when this has all been completed, Jesse Bailey from the Walkable WPB blog has suggested that we print up some “I Survived the Great Okeechobee Closure of 2016” T-Shirts
Cover photo published by the City of West Palm Beach