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Residents, officials welcome light rail project

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 5:41 PM EDT
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Transit trends are evolving, and a light rail project could be the answer to help manage Palm Beach County’s growth.

"The traffic has picked up a lot," said a resident.

The proposal comes with the promise of fast-tracking commuters from the area’s western communities to the hub of Palm Beach County.

Rendering of light rail station at Congress Avenue.
Rendering of light rail station at Congress Avenue.

The traffic along a 13-mile stretch between Okeechobee Boulevard and State Road 7 is expected to climb as more growth and development sets in.

The Palm Beach Transportation Agency is on a mission to ease the increasing traffic pressure along one of the county's busiest corridors by proposing a light rail project on Okeechobee Boulevard and State Road 7 from the Mall at Wellington Green to downtown West Palm Beach.

Map of light rail project on Okeechobee Boulevard and State Road 7 from the Mall at Wellington...
Map of light rail project on Okeechobee Boulevard and State Road 7 from the Mall at Wellington Green to downtown West Palm Beach.

“We can’t really control change,” said Valerie Neilson, the interim executive director of the Palm Beach Transportation Agency. “Change is coming. You can’t continue to sprawl forever. You have to start using your resources more wisely.”

The Palm Beach Transportation Agency is showcasing a series of renderings with a snapshot of what the light rail project could look like.

Light rail track running down the middle of Military Trail.
Light rail track running down the middle of Military Trail.

One image shows the first light rail station situated across the Palm Beach County Convention Center with a light rail track running down the middle of Okeechobee Boulevard.

The vision is modeled after similar light rail projects in Portland, Austin, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City.

“This is something that Broward is already planning on,” said Neilson. “They already have funding and Miami’s already there with their smart plans.”

Light rail station situated across the Palm Beach County Convention Center with a light rail...
Light rail station situated across the Palm Beach County Convention Center with a light rail track running down the middle of Okeechobee Boulevard.

Palm Tran is already seeing an exponential spike in the demand for more transit options in response to soaring gas prices.

“We have seen an increase in ridership on our system, beginning in March with almost 1,000 more people a day,” said Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton Forbes.

Light rail rendering along State Road 7.
Light rail rendering along State Road 7.

The approval process required for a light rail project to take shape is lengthy and requires a series of agencies to sign off on the proposal.

The estimated cost of the Center-Platform Dedicated-Lane alternative is roughly $850 million.

If the plan is approved, it could be at least 10 to 15 years before the project takes shape.

For more information about the Okeechobee Boulevard and State Road 7 Multimodal Corridor Study, click here.

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