More than sixty years ago, President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1856, authorizing the construction of nearly 50,000 miles of nearly toll-free highways, making interstate transportation safer and more efficient. This system has achieved its goal of providing safer transportation. The Palm Beach Post reports that as of 2004, the Interstate System had a fatality rate of 0.8, compared to 1.46 for all roads.
The highways in the interstate system are owned and operated by the states and access roads (interchanges) are controlled by the Federal Highway Administration. Currently, I-95’s interchange extending from Glades Road in Boca Raton to Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach has recently completed construction of something called a “diverging diamond,” the first of its kind in Palm Beach County. The diverging diamond is designed to reduce congestion and vehicle crashes in this busy stretch of road, but we are skeptical if it will achieve this goal and not have the opposite effect of causing more car accidents in Boca Raton due to confused drivers. The new construction allows traffic to switch to the left side through the interchange, eliminating left-turn movements against oncoming traffic that is the scene of many traffic collisions. Future construction plans include extending existing express lanes already open in Broward and Miami Dade counties to the north. Drivers will be charged a toll to use these roads. Construction is scheduled for completion by late 2023.
In the meantime, drivers are being cautioned that the recently completed Glades Road Interchange is likely to confuse GPS systems, Google Maps or Waze as well as drivers, causing them to feel like they are driving on the wrong side of the road. The diamond interchange will direct westbound drivers to the left side of the road while going over the I-95 bridge. At that point they will have the choice to proceed to I-95 north or south, or remain on Glades Road. Drivers who remain on Glades Road will then switch back to the right side of the road. This configuration is said to reduce accidents, but, again, we are skeptical of this claim and fear it will have the opposite effect and result in more accidents do to confused drivers in Boca Raton many of which are very young or very old.
To help acclimate drivers to the new formation, drivers are advised to slow down as they approach the exchange, to obey the traffic signals, and to pay attention to the additional one-way signs and pavement markings that have been added throughout the I-95 overpass. The number of traffic signals has been reduced from four to two, which, again, we are not sure if this will have a positive impact on car accidents. Drivers can expect additional daytime and nighttime road closures along the highway between now and May 1 while additional parts of the interchange are being finished. The Florida Department of Transportation has projected that these changes will reduce crashes in the area by one-third.
Elsewhere in Palm Beach County, a lawsuit by Palm Beach County has delayed approved construction plans for extending State Road 7 from 60th Street to Northlake Boulevard near Ibis Country Club. Construction was originally set to begin this year. Another project involves the stretch of road from Okeechobee Boulevard to 60th Street. While those supporting the plan have argued that the extension is needed to ease traffic congestion and improve traffic safety in the area, opponents claim that the construction will threaten the wildlife of Grassy Waters Preserve. Trial is expected to take place in October of this year.
Other projects in the area that have been deferred on account of the litigation include work along Interstate 95 and Woolbright Road in Boynton Beach Boulevard and 45th Street in West Palm Beach. Ironically, these delays will endanger human life at the expense of wildlife. However, the widening of State Road to Lyons Road along Atlantic Avenue is on schedule to occur in fiscal year 2024 and the widening of Lyons Road to the turnpike is on schedule for fiscal year 2027.
While our interstate highway system is indeed relatively safe and efficient, collisions do occur on local roads as well as the interstate on a daily basis. According to statistics compiled by the Insurance Information Institute, in 2020, Florida had the second highest number of traffic fatalities in the nation—3,331, exceeded only by California at 3,847. Both states showed an increase in traffic deaths from 2019 to 2020. For Florida, the number of deaths increased by 7 percent. These statistics point to the need for increased care while on the road so you don’t become involved in the next traffic fatality.
David B. Datny is the Managing Attorney of The Datny Law Firm which is a boutique Personal Injury Law Firm in Boca Raton and Wellington that helps car accident victims, hurt pedestrians, injured bicyclists recover after an accident that was not their fault. Mr. Datny is a resident of Boca Raton and is very familiar with its local roads, streets and highways including what we believe is the very dangerous Glades Road “Diverging Diamond” intersection. If you or a loved one have been hurt or killed in a traffic accident, whether due to the “Diverging Diamond” on Glades Road or elsewhere in Florida, please do not hesitate to call 561-221-7474 to set up a FREE consultation directly with Mr. Datny.