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Road Closures: The Method Behind What Can Be Maddening

West Palm Beach’s New Process To Keep Traffic Flowing In The Face Of The Flagler Bridge Closure

(West Palm Beach, FL) – It has happened to everyone.  At some point in your efforts to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ you’ve had to detour to an unplanned point ‘C’ because of a road closure. Often times the detour is due to a special event.

You check your watch and wonder how much longer your trip will now take. You grip the wheel a bit tighter, and ask yourself “Who decided to close this road, and what were they thinking?”

As downtown West Palm Beach braces for the Florida Department of Transportation’s closure of the Flagler Memorial Bridge, the City of West Palm Beach is now subjecting all potential road closures to more scrutiny, and implementing new procedures and criteria to determine what roads are closed and for how long.

“It is always a tricky balance when weighing the benefit of having exciting, ongoing events versus the effect those events have on traffic around the city,” said Nicole Martin, City of West Palm Beach Special Events Coordinator.  Martin is part of the team that examines every special event request that comes to the City, and evaluates it’s potential effect on traffic, noise, crowds and other criteria.

“Now that the bridge is going to be closed, we are being a lot more cautious about any event that will be located downtown,” said Martin.

The two most common roads in the City affected by special events are Flagler Drive and Clematis Street.

Among the changes being implemented by the City are stricter rules on how long an event can close a road.  In the past, many Saturday morning events were allowed to close roads at noon on Friday.  Now, those events are not permitted to begin their set up until the Friday afternoon rush hour is over.

Since FDOT announced the Flagler Bridge would be shut down, the City has started a new process regarding road closures. Now, all special event requests are first sent to the City’s traffic engineering office for evaluation.

“We are taking the bridge into account in just about everything that comes to us,” said City of West Palm Beach Traffic Engineer Brian Collins.

The City is now asking if event tents can be placed on sidewalks instead of roadways, therefore not interfering with traffic during set up. Regarding construction projects, the City also has the authority to charge organizations a fee if they plan on blocking traffic on a major roadway. Recently the City required a contractor to move where he wanted to set up a crane from a major roadway to a side street.

“One of our major priorities is to have events shift their hours so their activities don’t interfere with a rush hour. We also need to make sure that there are acceptable detours available that can handle the amount of traffic that would be affected,” said Collins.

Additional conversations are now taking place between event promoters and the city to make it clear that avoiding traffic delays is a top priority. Aside from events that have already been approved, it is likely that until the bridge repair is complete, there will be a significant decrease in the number of event-related closures.

FDOT has yet to say exactly how long they plan on keeping the Flagler Bridge closed.

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio announced she has asked the head of the Florida Department of Transportation to appear before city leaders and members of the public to answer questions surrounding the closure of the Flagler Memorial Bridge.

Mayor Muoio said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad will appear before the City Commission on Tuesday, March 19th at 4pm in the City Commission chambers.