Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Segment #1 and the video: Just the Facts, “Getting from Point A to Point B”, Panel Discussions in West Palm Beach.

Check back tomorrow for more information from the Public Discussions held on May 22nd. Use this link for the first blog post from May 23rd.
This forum was hosted by Town of Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio, West Palm Beach Commissioner Shanon Materio, and Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard.

This first segment featured George Webb, P.E., Palm Beach County Engineer, former West Palm Beach Mayor Nancy Graham and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) representative Mark Plass. The video (see below) also includes the introduction by the day’s Master of Ceremonies, Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard. Dana Little of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council served as moderator for all the panel discussions.

We learned from George Webb what Palm Beach Beach’s responsibilities are as it relates to mobility. He spoke about the County’s traffic signal control system which is controlled at their headquarters building at Okeechobee Boulevard and Jog Road (Vista Center). He also talked about the challenges of making alternative mobility an attractive choice compared to the single passenger automobile, especially in relation to mass transit (longer wait times) and more walking (e.g., the climate).

Many people at this forum may not have been aware of the strategic decision made by Palm Beach County years ago, at the urging of West Palm Beach, to keep County government and the courthouse in the downtown. In the video, you will hear the history of traffic concurrency and the exemption granted the downtown area, especially for residential development.

Mark Plass from FDOT outlined their role related to Okeechobee Boulevard. They own the right-of-way. He acknowledged the department is looking more at all types of mobility issues through transportation system management. This looks at all users, including pedestrians and bikes, in addition to the movement of vehicles. He recognized this corridor is challenged by multiple jurisdictions, including the County in terms of signalization and the Town of Palm Beach as it relates to bridges. FDOT also operates a large safety program overall as it relates to transportation.

Former Mayor Nancy Graham speaks at the 33:30 minute mark and then again at the 51 minute mark providing some of the most interesting insights of the day. Mayor Graham ushered in the strong mayor form of government to the City of West Palm Beach by being elected the first one. She recalled the days before the redevelopment of downtown West Palm Beach and brought pictures to prove it, including the 70 acres which eventually became City Place.

In some ways, she believes the problems the city faces today are really consequences of its success. She also noted that some of the protections that were put in place originally as part of the city’s Master Plan were since removed. She talks candidly about building height limits near the waterfront and suggests the city may not be making development decisions as thoughtfully as it once did, or could have, under the original Master Plan.

Hope you find this video helpful and share with everyone who is interested in this topic: