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Fort Lauderdale City Leaders Debate Future Tunnel Top Park Design

In the design for the Las Olas Tunnel Top Park, traffic experts and the city are working together to change the flow of cars around the area.
City of Fort Lauderdale Tunnel Top Park Design presentation Dec. 15, 2020.
In the design for the Tunnel Top Park, traffic experts and the city are working together to change the flow of cars around the Las Olas Blvd. area.

City commissioners heard a presentation Tuesday outlining the design and traffic plans for a new park that will sit on top of the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel on U.S. 1. Mayor Dean Trantalis argued the design team and FDOT for more green space over "hard space."

There's been talk for several years now, about creating a park on top of the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel in Fort Lauderdale.

Voters approved $200 million in general obligation bonds for parks-related projects in March 2019 — and that includes making the tunnel top parkwith a new plaza on Las Olas Boulevard a reality.

City commissioners debated what the space should look and feel like during a conference meeting Tuesday, when they were presented with the current plans that the design team and the Florida Department of Transportation are moving forward with.

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A debate about shade and water features broke out during the presentation.

Mayor Dean Trantalis said he didn't think the plans, FDOT and the design team are moving forward with, added enough of a park feel to the urban area.

"Seems to me that we're just creating a lot more hard space that's only gonna cook all the pedestrians that walk around there during the summer," he said. "We already have a lot of hardscape we're trying to soften it up."

Some of the current plans include: different colored concrete to direct pedestrian flow, new lighting, and one fountain instead of two.

Maggie Hunt was the only speaker during public comment. She shared the mayor's concern about whether there will be enough shade and greenery to make the area feel like a park:

"I think just because we have more trees in the plan than we have there now doesn't necessarily make it enough," she said.

FDOT and the design team have been working on a plan to try to expand the pedestrian area as much as possible. Regarding traffic flow, right now that looks like reducing vehicle lanes from two down to one, as traffic crosses over the top of the tunnel.

The designers, and FDOT reps, said they had been working closely with the city's Las Olas Mobility Working Group to try to coordinate with the long-term goals residents in the area have been working toward for years.

With the proposed loss of one fountain in the plans, Commissioner Ben Sorensen suggested adding an interactive splash pad fountain for kids.

"Like, you know shoots up little spouts of water and so forth. I think it'd be cool to have some interactive features that folks can engage with in a more meaningful way," he said.

The commission also talked about other ways to shade the area and where public art could go in the future.

City leaders decided to talk to homeowners associations and the merchants in the area before they approve construction hours for FDOT and a time schedule to get the park completed.

The total estimated cost for the project, between both the city and FDOT, is $26 million. The city has advertised it will contribute $10.6 million from the park bond funds toward the tunnel top park project.

You can see the latest design plans, here:

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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