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Proposal would bring light rail to busy stretch of Palm Beach County

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 8:21 AM EDT
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Palm Beach County leaders are taking a closer look at one of the busiest corridors in West Palm Beach — Okeechobee Boulevard and State Road 7.

For the last year, transit leaders have been keeping a close eye on State Road 7 from the Mall at Wellington Green to downtown West Palm Beach — a 13-mile stretch that more than 70,000 cars travel each day.

Patsy Davis is new to Palm Beach County and is familiar with the wide variety of transit options she left behind in New York City.

"When I came here and I saw the traffic, I was a little bit distressed," Davis said. "Because on the way for crossing, so much traffic, so many cars, and this is a town for pretty much a lot of older folks."

So now she's getting a closer look at a proposal from the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency to potentially add a light rail between downtown West Palm Beach and the Mall at Wellington Green.

"It's going to cut down on the congestion on the roads and allow people the opportunity they want to, to walk," Davis said.

The light rail would mitigate congestion and add a safe travel option to one of the busiest corridors in West Palm Beach. Within the last two years, there have been 4,700 crashes between Okeechobee Boulevard and State Road 7. Sixteen collisions were fatal.

"It's horrible in the morning rush hour," Shantell Martin said. "It is bad."

A light rail would connect people who may not have a vehicle.

“With this enhanced transit, people can actually not have to have a car,” Valerie Neilson, interim executive director of the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, told WFLX. “Not everybody can have a car. So you’re really providing those options. So, if you’re too young or too old, or you can’t afford to have a car, you don’t have the physical ability to have a car, providing that premium transit network really benefits everyone.”

At this point, the light rail proposal is in its beginning stages and would cost more than $850 million to build.

Martin wondered how long an overhaul would take.

"The construction time it's going to take is ridiculous," she said. "The amount of tax money that we're going to put into it, am I really going to see it?"

If it continues to get the green light, it could come to fruition within the next 10 to 15 years.

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