St. Lucie West off radar for Turnpike interchange

Buckle up: St. Lucie-related news from Florida Turnpike officials is fast and furious:

  • St. Lucie West motorists can forget about getting an interchange on the Turnpike until at least 2045.
  • Drivers’ cash will be no good at the Treasure Coast’s turnpike interchanges within a year.
  • Florida Turnpike Enterprise anticipates widening the highway to six lanes from Jupiter to Port St. Lucie as soon as 2025.
  • And a new interchange would be more beneficial at Crosstown Parkway than Midway Road, a financial analysis determined.

Those were the highlights of an update by turnpike officials during the Aug. 8 meeting of the St. Lucie County Transportation Planning Organization.

An average of 43,300 vehicles per day travel on the turnpike through St. Lucie County, state records show.

Turnpike Enterprise expects to complete a study in fall 2020 for the widening of the four-lane highway to eight lanes from Indiantown Road in Jupiter to Okeechobee Road/State Road 70 in Fort Pierce.

Traffic projections show the turnpike will need to be widened to eight lanes through the Treasure Coast by 2045 to handle the growing vehicle volume, said Brian Ribaric, a turnpike project manager. Turnpike officials dropped an interchange at St. Lucie West Boulevard from further consideration because of the engineering and environmental impacts, Ribaric said.

Turnpike Enterprise plans to remove toll booths and institute all-electronic tolls this year at interchanges at Okeechobee Road/State Road 70 and Port St. Lucie Boulevard, Ribaric said. The interchanges will be redesigned to smooth traffic flow.

There is already all-electronic toll collection at the turnpike’s Becker Road interchange in Port St. Lucie.

Traffic projections indicate the turnpike will need to be widened to six lanes by 2025 from Indiantown Road in Jupiter to Port St. Lucie Boulevard, Ribaric said.

Improvements will also be needed by 2025 at the turnpike’s Okeechobee Road/SR 70 interchange, he added. By 2035, the turnpike will need to be widened to six lanes from Port St. Lucie Boulevard to Okeechobee Road/SR 70.

Long-term plans call for the turnpike to be widened to eight lanes on the Treasure Coast by 2045, Ribaric said.

A Midway Road interchange on the turnpike is a top priority for county officials, but Ribaric said a cost-benefit analysis showed the money would be better spent on a Crosstown Parkway interchange. It would cost more than $32 million just to construct the ramps connecting the turnpike to Midway Road, Ribaric said.

The project is complicated by new FDOT standards requiring the reconstructed Midway Road overpass to accommodate turn lanes and have a greater clearance from the turnpike roadway.

A Midway Road interchange would also have to be designed to mesh with improvements the county plans on nearby South Jenkins Road, north of Midway Road, Ribaric said.

County Commissioners Frannie Hutchinson and Chris Dzadovsky said a Midway Road interchange is needed to cope with growth and relieve the congested Okeechobee Road/SR 70 interchange.

Midway Road, a major east-west thoroughfare through the heart of the county, has been a traffic disaster area for decades.

Midway Road fails to meet traffic congestion standards from Milner Drive and Jenkins Road, to Oleander Avenue just west of U.S. 1, county records show.

St. Lucie County is in the midst of a $51.5 million construction project to widen Midway Road to four lanes from Selvitz Road to U.S. 1. It’s expected to be completed in fall 2020.

The county plans to spend another $43.8 million widening Midway Road from Selvitz Road to Glades Cut-off Road, but no construction timeline has been established.

Clearing up traffic congestion on Midway Road is crucial to the county’s growth, Hutchinson said.

“We’re limited because of failing road grades,” Hutchinson said. “Those numbers come into play as to what we can allow to be developed.”

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