West Palm Beach, Florida Explores Downtown Walkability

West Palm Beach, Florida is undertaking a walkability study of its downtown; wide streets and a confusing mix of jurisdictions provide substantial challenges to the effort.

Eliot Kleinberg details the case of West Palm Beach, Florida, were the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Community Development Agency recently hired Jeff Speck to undertake a walkability study of the city's downtown. 

Plans to build a new, 400-plus-room hotel, across from the West Palm Beach's CityPlace and adjacent to the city's convention center, for instance, would be greatly improved if the street bifurcating the developments weren't eight lanes of vehicle-inhabited pedestrian disincentive. DDA Executive Director Raphael Clemente even has a personal anecdote about the dangerous conditions of the streets in downtown—he and his daughter were struck by a car making an illegal U-turn while they were riding their bikes in downtown last year.

The city, including Mayor Jeri Muoio, seem ready to address the problem at the street design level—rather than adding pedestrian or bicycle infrastructure like flyovers or tunnels. But reconfiguring the street will require coordination of a byzantine maze of jurisdictions. The aforementioned eight-lane street across from the convention center, for instance, is actually two separate 4-lane, 1-way boulevards: "Okeechobee and Lakeview — constitute a state road, State Road 704. Traffic lights are operated by Palm Beach County. The city owns part of the median. And the convention center hotel owns another part."

According to Kleinberg's report, Speck will present his findings of his walkability study at the end of May.

Full Story: Big divide separates CityPlace, new hotel

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