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A1A: Speedway or Scenic Highway? - 05/28/10

About a year from now FDOT officials will announce what they plan to do with A1A. They have been considering three options: Plans A, B, and to do nothing. Now word comes to us, after a number of public input sessions and private meetings with landowners along A1A, that FDOT is currently focusing on spot solutions for the intersections at Hillsboro and at 21st Avenue and 2d Street on the north side.

At a private meeting with city and FDOT officials, I asked what it would take to drive the final decision to the do-nothing option. I was told it would be public opposition. The public reception to the plans apparently has been less than enthusiastic. The surveys at the public workshops showed strong opposition. So the question is, will officials in Deerfield Beach tell FDOT they don't like -- because citizens don't like -- what they have in mind for A1A? This doesn't mean do nothing; it means looking at the A1A "problem" a different way. Just like they did in Delray Beach.

My solution: I would opt for Plan C, where C=Citizen. In other words, a plan that considers the people who live in Deerfield Beach first for a change.

A1A Scenic Highway SignInstead of trying to rush traffic through Deerfield Beach in a manner which is unfriendly to beach goers and pedestrians, Plan C is to make the beach area pedestrian and bicycle friendly. That means a place safe and convenient for people who come to our beach to enjoy our beach and its amenities, not to set a NASCAR record on the way to someplace else.

Instead of making A1A a speedway, keep it a slow moving scenic highway. Yeah, even slow it down some. This could also work to the advantage of the businesses at the beach which benefit in no way, shape, or form by people charging through here en route to Boca.

A model for this is Delray Beach, where traffic on A1A is forced to creep along, interrupted at a number of pedestrian crossings equipped with lights which pedestrians can activate when they want to cross the street. State law requires cars to stop for pedestrians on cross walks.

No kidding that A1A in Deerfield is a pain in the keister for drivers in a hurry to get somewhere on a crowded Saturday and Sunday. When that bridge goes up -- as it does a lot on sunny weekends -- traffic can back up for blocks north and south of Hillsboro. No amount of horn honking, steering wheel pounding, or finger flinging seems to help. This is the problem that the plans, at the cost of millions to taxpayers and extensive social costs to beach residents, are supposed to tackle.

Said plans call for adding a northbound lane to A1A south of Hillsboro. One lane would turn left, one lane would be left and straight, and the new lane would be right or straight.

Will it solve the problem? Doubtful. Remember just a few years ago the addition of the left turn lane at the Hillsboro intersection was going to solve the problem and stop nuclear proliferation as a side benefit. It didn't seem to work. Otherwise, we would not be talking about this now.

This seems to be the result of nearly all of the solutions to our traffic and parking problems drawn up by the experts. Twenty five years ago the Main Beach Parking Lot was going to take care of our beach parking needs for centuries. A decade later, city officials were pushing the idea of a parking garage whose 11 million bucks of construction would of course be dealt to their pals.

About the only part of the scheme around the Hillsboro intersection that makes sense is the addition of a bike lane. Aside from this, the whole plan is bass-ackwards.

I say, forget the added traffic lanes and put five or six controlled pedestrian crosswalks along A1A from S.E. 10th Street to N.E. 7th -- in other words up and down the whole width of Deerfield Beach. If this is an inconvenience for traffic, too dang bad. A1A is a scenic beach highway, not an Interstate. Apparently that's what they think in Delray and that's how public officials in Deerfield Beach ought to see it too.

As for traffic, I got only one thing to say. If you're in a hurry, go some other way. Otherwise, take a few deep breaths and enjoy Deerfield Beach, the beach.