Pembroke Pines ponders one-of-a-kind overpass

Pembroke Pines city commissioners are considering construction of a one-of-a-kind overpass to assist with traffic congestion.

As a part of the county’s 2040 Long Range Transportation plan, Broward’s Metropolitan Planning Organization proposed a unique center-turn overpass to the city during a recent commission meeting.

The overpass would be constructed on the intersection of Pines Boulevard and Flamingo Road.

This is a close-up depiction of the possible center-turn overpass, as proposed by Broward County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Left-turn traffic would be elevated and separated from forward-moving, cross-street and right-turn traffic, to then descend from the raised lanes and merge into ongoing traffic.

The ambitious construction would be the first not only the country, but the world, according to MPO’s executive director, Gregory Stuart.

The planning organization says the addition would reduce delays, increase capacity, minimize land impact and improve safety.

City commissioners were divided on the proposal. Although Commissioners Angelo Castillo, Jay D. Schwartz and Iris Siple were not convinced, Mayor Frank C. Ortis and Commissioner Thomas Good Jr. were excited by the design.

The meeting concluded without a vote or determination to continue with the plans until the MPO has conducted more research.

Ortis serves on the MPO’s board as deputy vice chairman. MPO Principal Planner Christopher Restrepo, who is the project’s lead, and Stuart attended the city’s commission meeting at the mayor’s request.

The results of the MPO’s analysis indicates that the intersection’s busiest time is during the hours after mid-day. It shows traffic is currently delayed by more than two minutes. By the year 2040, the analysis predicts this delay would nearly double. The interchange project would decrease the delay to about 47 seconds in the coming years.

“I am not convinced about your project,” Castillo told the MPO officials at the meeting. “There may be a reason why it’s not done anywhere. There’s a lot of things I like to see Pembroke Pines be the first in. This is not it.”

However, he encouraged the MPO’s “to do more homework on this …. I am open to any possibility you can convince me.”

This is not the first time the idea has been before the commissioners. They rejected it last year when the MPO made similar arguments.

The estimated budget presented to the city last year was a $135 million. After analysis this figure was reduced to a little over $38 million. Adding features such as lights, signage, railings and landscaping would be an additional $7 million.

Restrepo said there are no immediate plans to start construction, adding it would be no earlier than 2023.

Schwartz was most concerned with the lengthy process.

He expressed his disappointment in the MPO with failing to address the concerns of the city in a timely manner.

“The county just hasn’t met the transportation needs of this city for decades … the residents of our city have continued to put money in our projects because the county has failed to deliver.”

Some commissioners also questioned the funding for such a task.

Good embraced the idea, telling Restrepo, “I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this project. I would like to see happen much sooner than five years … I am very much in support of this.”

He suggested the county tap into surtax dollars to speed the process and “worry about reimbursements later.”

Stuart explained the MPO receives a yearly budget of $1 billion. This project would be an addition to the existing assignments in the works. Therefore, he said, the timeline may remain the same. However, funding could come from the federal and state governments, not the city.

Good, who, according to the city’s website, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Engineering from the University of Florida, said, “My transportation engineering experience screams at me: Yes, yes, yes, yes. I really think this is needed.”