For decades, leaders have entertained proposals to build a bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway at Frederick Small Road. The issue has come back up as the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency weighs the latest proposal.
JUPITER — When local officials hammer out the details of a 25-year transportation plan by year’s end, they’ll grapple with a question that’s been up in the air for generations.
What to do about a proposed bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway on Frederick Small Road?
Palm Beach County recommended including the Jupiter bridge in the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency’s 25-year forecast, projecting it’ll cost roughly $30 million to build the bridge and widen the road between 2036 and 2045.
Jupiter Vice Mayor Jim Kuretski, who represents his town on the TPA Governing Board, said he hasn’t seen justification for including the bridge in the forecast.
>> JUPITER READERS: Sign up for the weekly Post on Jupiter newsletter here
He credited the county’s efforts to control growth in the Jupiter area, saying it’s created an environment where a new bridge doesn’t seem necessary.
"I’m kind of a conservative fiscal guy, right?" Kuretski said. "Why spend $30 million?"
For its part, the TPA recommends excluding the bridge from the 2045 outlook, citing the potential for "adverse environmental impacts."
Motasem Al-Turk, director of Palm Beach County Engineering & Public Works’ traffic division, said including it is a matter of aligning the TPA projection with the county’s comprehensive plan.
>> KEEP READING: Jupiter may build indoor athletic facility at one of these four sites
County staff think a bridge there may be needed in the future because of the distance between the next-closest Intracoastal bridges at Donald Ross Road and Indiantown Road, Al-Turk said.
That poses a number of challenges, he said, from traffic gridlock to evacuations to police response times.
But those concerns haven’t materialized, Al-Turk said, at least not yet.
"It has not been built yet because, again, there is no real demand that would justify the cost at this point," Al-Turk said.
A similar proposal to build a bridge there caused a kerfuffle in early 1990s and signs remain posted flagging the site as a "future extension" of the road, but its origins stretch back decades earlier.
A state traffic study presented to Palm Beach County commissioners in December 1958 suggested building a bridge at Frederick Small Road in the following five to 10 years, according to a Palm Beach Post article from the time.
While Juno Beach’s mayor from 1981 to 1992, Bill Kollmer recalled "big pushback" to the project from the nearby Bluffs neighborhood.
Kollmer said he supported the proposal decades ago and still thinks it’s a good idea.
That’s in line with how Juno Beach’s Town Council feels, Mayor Jason Haselkorn said.
In 2017, Juno Beach council members unanimously passed a resolution urging the TPA to keep the bridge in its 25-year plan.
"Nothing’s deviated," Haselkorn said. "We feel very strongly about it."
It’s a matter of clearing up the town’s traffic congestion and enhancing the quality of life for residents west of the barrier islands heading to and from the beach, Haselkorn said.
"You don’t need anything but a Saturday afternoon when that bridge goes up on Donald Ross to see we have a traffic issue in town," he said.
But Kuretski, an engineer with Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light, said he still needs to see hard evidence to justify including the bridge in the TPA’s outlook and spending millions of dollars to actually build it.
"I’m saying there’s no traffic to justify it," Kuretski said. "Thirty million dollars doesn’t grow on trees to build a road that no one needs."
Jupiter’s comprehensive plan estimates a weekday average of roughly 40,100 cars will drive on Donald Ross Road east of Prosperity Farms Road during peak season in 2035, up from about 27,500 in 2013.
The county, which has the final say on whether a Frederick Small bridge is built, wants to add two lanes to the Donald Ross bridge before fiscal year 2024.
On the Indiantown Road bridge, Jupiter projects a weekday average during peak season of 52,100 in 2035, up from about 28,500 in 2013.
Kuretski said he has a meeting planned with the county to address the bridge proposal.
"I suspect they’re either ... (going to) try to convince me on why it’s needed or they'll take it out," he said. "We’ll see how it goes."