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Feasibility study recommends light rail for Palm Beach

An artist’s impression of light rail line in the median of Okeechobee Boulevard. Passenger access to stops would be via signalled crossings. Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency

A two-year study into future transport options to relieve chronic congestion between the communities of Wellington Green and West Palm Beach in Florida (USA) has recommended a light rail solution.

The feasibility exercise, commissioned by the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency (PBTPA), considered seven options for the 21km (13-mile) route along Okeechobee Boulevard and State Road 7. Favouring light rail with dedicated median lanes over mixed traffic bus operation, BRT and elevated LRT alternatives, consistent journey times of 38 minutes could be maintained, the report suggests – something which is currently not possible.

In addition to reducing traffic, the project – which early estimates suggest could cost USD856m – would also help to meet air quality improvement objectives, reduce road accidents (from 2019-21 the corridor saw 4794 crashes, including 16 fatalities, according to PBTPA figures) and promote transit oriented development. Population along the corridor is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years, and light rail could generate significant investment near the planned route’s 17 stops, some of which would have dedicated park-and-ride facilities.

The Florida Department of Transportation is now to conduct its own USD2m study of the PBTPA’s findings to determine if the project should move forward, as well as investigating funding options.

Palm Beach Gardens Mayor Chelsea Reed, Chair of the PBTPA, said: “I cannot imagine people not embracing this… Change is not easy, but we are talking about safely moving people around in a reasonable amount of time.”