(WFLX)-- The Flagler Memorial (North) Bridge has closed to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic for approximately six months, to allow PCL Construction to build the main foundations for the replacement bridge before reopening the existing bridge to traffic by Nov. 1, 2014.
During this closure, drivers will be detoured to the Royal Park Bridge to cross the Intracoastal Waterway.
To ensure life safety for all residents, employees, and visitors, as well as optimal flow of traffic during the rush hour periods throughout this extended period, the Town has developed multiple plans in coordination with the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT), US Coast Guard, Palm Beach County, City of West Palm Beach, and bridge contractors. In furtherance of the Town's news release dated May 1, 2014, the following summary provides the current status of all actions, including some new information about the ongoing planning for the upcoming bridge closure. The most important new or updated information is highlighted in the yellow sections below.
Royal Park Bridge/Flagler Drive Intersection: Prohibition of left hand turns at the intersection of Royal Park Bridge and Flagler Drive and closure of the pedestrian crosswalk at the west end of the bridge took effect on May 7 and will remain in place until further notice. These restrictions will be strictly enforced and violators will be ticketed. The handicap accessible pedestrian path under the bridge is open to provide for a safe and uninterrupted route for north/south foot traffic.
These adjustments will allow traffic lights to remain green for longer periods of time in the east/west directions. Other green lights in the east/west corridor in West Palm Beach also will be extended to promote longer periods of free flowing traffic between Palm Beach and I-95. The actual duration of each green cycle will be adjusted frequently throughout the day in relation to the actual amount and direction of congestion occurring at each intersection.
Delivery Vehicles: Vehicles (including delivery trucks) are prohibited from parking in travel lanes. Designated loading/unloading zones or legal parking spaces must be used when making deliveries to island businesses and residences. Violators will be ticketed or towed.
Traffic Flow: To ensure optimal traffic flow on and off the island throughout the day,
the following actions will be implemented:
• Town staff, as well as County staff, will actively monitor key intersections on
and off the island and will manually control traffic lights to ensure proper flow
of traffic. (At some locations, this will be by remote control. At others, traffic
signals will be physically controlled at the intersection.)
• Palm Beach police officers will be stationed at key intersections on the island
during the peak morning and evening rush hour periods. West Palm Beach
police officers will do the same in West Palm Beach.
• The designated route to the Royal Park Bridge will be via South County Road
(both northbound and southbound) to Royal Palm Way. During the peak
traffic periods, preference will be given to east/west traffic on Royal Palm Way
versus perpendicular roads such as Cocoanut Row and Hibiscus Avenue, so
drivers are strongly encouraged to use South County Road to access Royal
Palm Way. This will allow police officers to maintain a nearly continuous flow
of traffic on County Road and Royal Palm Way.
The US Coast Guard has approved the following special bridge opening schedules for
the Royal Park and Southern Boulevard bridges, effective on May 12, 2014:
• Royal Park Bridge
o Will open once per hour (at quarter past the hour), with no openings
during morning peak from 7:16am to 9:14am and evening peak from
4:16pm to 6:14pm, (i.e. no openings at 8:15am and 5:15pm)
• Southern Boulevard Bridge
o Will open twice per hour (on the hour and half-hour), with no openings
during morning peak from 7:31am to 9:29am and evening peak from
4:01pm to 5:59pm, (i.e. no openings at 8:00am, 8:30am, 9:00am,
4:30pm, 5:00pm, and 5:30pm)
The above schedules will be in effect Monday through Friday. On weekends and during
Federal holidays, when land based travel is less congested and waterway traffic is more
congested, the bridges will open on the following schedules:
• Royal Park Bridge
o Will open twice per hour (at the quarter hour and three-quarter hour)
• Southern Boulevard Bridge
o Will open twice per hour (on the hour and half-hour)
People inside the Palm Beach County Traffic Control Center are keeping a close eye on traffic now that the Flagler Bridge has closed.
The county says it is keeping a close eye on around six cameras in the area of the Flagler Bridge.
The county is going to manually change the time between red lights at intersections to keep traffic flowing.
More police are expected to be out during rush hour on Palm Beach and in West Palm Beach to keep traffic moving as well.
Town Website: The Town's website (townofpalmbeach.com) has been updated to include specific information about the upcoming closure and our traffic management efforts, as well as general information about the Flagler Bridge project. Please check the website for updates and sign up for "Emergency Traffic Alerts" by clicking on the "Stay Informed" button on the home page and follow the prompts to register your email and cell phone number to receive the latest information. Emergency alerts will only be issued when there is an unexpected incident that impacts traffic and not for the normal daily fluctuations of congestion levels.
Traffic Cameras: Live streaming video feeds from traffic cameras at the Royal Park and Southern Boulevard bridges (facing east) and the intersection of South Ocean and Royal Palm Way (facing west) are now accessible on the Town's website. These cameras can be accessed on any computer, smart phone, or other device capable of streaming data.
Interactive Maps: In addition to the live video feeds, the Town recommends using online interactive maps to monitor traffic congestion in real time.
From your desktop or laptop, go to www.maps.google.com.
• Type in the Town's zip code: 33480
• In the search bar, type the word "traffic" and press enter to view live traffic
If you have a smart phone such as an iPhone or a tablet, select the Maps Application.
• Type in 33480.
• Enable the "Show Traffic" feature.
Green lines on the map indicate normal traffic flow. Yellow or orange lines indicate slower than normal traffic. Red lines indicate stopped traffic or severe congestion.
You can use the zoom and click+drag features on your smartphone, computer, or tablet to zoom in and out, and move in any direction on the map to see traffic conditions on Palm Beach and in the adjacent mainland areas.
The Town's Fire-Rescue and Police Departments have been coordinating and training with partner agencies in the county to ensure the effective response to and treatment of all patients.
Alternate medical transportation routes to area hospitals have been identified and Opticom systems (which allow Fire-Rescue to change upcoming traffic lights to green while in route) will be used to ensure the fastest travel times.
Three additional landing zones have been identified in Palm Beach for Trauma Hawk helicopters, bringing our total to 6 landing zones throughout the town. Trauma Hawk will be called more frequently to ensure that patients in potentially life threatening situations receive the quickest possible care.
OTHER ACTIONS TO REDUCE TRAFFIC CONGESTION
The following actions will help reduce traffic congestion during the peak morning and evening rush hour periods:
• The Town will flex employee schedules to spread out rush hour impacts and also will encourage carpooling among Town employees.
• The Town's Public Works crews (sanitation, trash, etc.) will begin routes at daybreak.
The Town is also encouraging businesses on the island to flex their employee work schedules (to spread out rush hour impacts) and to promote carpooling.
Finally, Town staff will propose changing the permitted summer construction hours to minimize construction vehicles during peak traffic hours. The details of that recommendation are still being developed and will be presented at the May 13 Town Council meeting.
In the unlikely event of an evacuation for an approaching storm, the Flagler Bridge will not be available for movement off the island. Any Town decision to order an evacuation will be made in coordination with Palm Beach County's Division of Emergency Management. Any such decision will likely be made earlier than in past years to ensure sufficient clearance times for vehicles leaving Palm Beach. Traffic patterns are subject to change and may include using both sides of certain roads (temporary "one way" off the island) to assist in the movement of evacuating traffic. Visit the Town's Hurricane Preparedness page for more information about planning for hurricane season.
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