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Dark, deadly State Road 80 toward Belle Glade will finally get lighting

West and South ramp entrance to Southern Boulevard (State Road 80) from Haverhill Road.
Wilkine Brutus
West and South ramp entrance to Southern Boulevard (State Road 80) from Haverhill Road.

After several years of planning, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency is funding a project that will add lighting to the dark and deadly State Road 80 in the western part of the county.

The lighting is expected to reduce fatal crashes and hopefully reduce the fear of driving on the roadway.

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State Road 80, commonly known as Southern Boulevard, connects the western to eastern part of the county. When commuters are driving to or from Belle Glade, it can be pitch black and dangerous on that long rural stretch of farmland.

"In the last 5 years, we have records that nine people were involved in fatal crashes," said Valerie Neilsen, Executive Director for The Transportation Planning Agency. "And six of those nine fatalities happened at night, in dark, unlit conditions."

According to the TPA, between Jan 2016 to December 2021, there have been nearly 290 crashes along the infamous corridor and two-thirds of crashes that happened at night were fatal.

Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, and other local officials had long expressed their desire to reduce the number of car crashes on that corridor.

The Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Power & Light estimate the cost of the project to be $24.6 million. The TPA says it's using federal funds, $14.6 million from the Surface Transportation Program and in this last year, COVID stimulus funds became available, about $10million.

Palm Beach Beach County approved a memorandum of agreement to pay for the ongoing maintenance and operations of the project.

FPL is set to begin the first phase of construction in 2023.

Neilsen says the TPA is using those federal funds to add over a thousand lights across 18 miles.

"This is not only going to increase safety but it’s also going to encourage more people to be able to drive out to the Glades and not be worried about that it's going get dark and ‘I don’t want to drive back, I need to rush back,' Neilsen said. "And hopefully it’ll also, maybe help stimulate the economy as well in having more people visiting out to the Glades."

Wilkine Brutus is the Palm Beach County Reporter for WLRN. The award-winning journalist produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs. Contact Wilkine at wbrutus@wlrnnews.org
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