The Clifton Hill Connector Road Project took a step forward on Friday with the unveiling of reconstruction plans for Route 75, a thoroughfare between Melvin Evans Highway and Centerline Road.
Representatives from the Department of Public Works and Stanley Consultants, a design firm out of West Palm Beach, were on hand at the Department of Education Curriculum Center to walk community members through the first phase of the project and address public concerns.
The initial phase of the project includes the addition of a right turn lane at Melvin Evans Highway, handicap ramps and crosswalks, and a pedestrian sidewalk along the connector. The most significant change to the current road will be the reduction of a large incline that significantly decreases visibility for motorists. To correct that vertical profile, the road would need to shift 50 feet to the west, explained Michael Penn, project manager for Stanley Consultants. That work would mean a reduction of a 21 percent incline to a 13.5 percent incline at its steepest point.
Benjamin Martinez lives and works in the area that will be under construction and was in attendance during the public meeting. His two businesses, Benny’s Towing Service and Benny’s Used Cars, lie at the northern end of the proposed project. As Mr. Martinez inspected the map to locate his home, he pointed to the site of an accident years ago along Clifton Hill. The crash near the slope was fatal.
The proposed plan also includes additional safety features such as guard rails and sidewalks. Despite these additions, however, business owner Ingema Khan expressed concerns about new safety issues that could emerge even with the improvement. Khan, who owns Emerald K Tires, suggested that the flatter roads could potentially lead to an increase in speeding, negating the safety improvements that the road work sought to achieve.
“Unfortunately at times, we have to build it, you have to have it running for a number of years and as those issues occur, then that’s when we have to go back to what guidelines say,” Penn said.
“I know what you’re saying,” Khan followed. “It’s unfortunate that people have to die to make those changes.”
Maria Cruz has lived on Clifton Hill Road for over 20 years and learned about the meeting from a neighbour. Her questions during the meeting were about water supply to the area. Currently, residents rely solely on cisterns as water lines do not run through the neighborhood. For Ms. Cruz, who shares water with family members and often runs low, the construction seemed like a good opportunity to install that necessary infrastructure. Public Works Commissioner Gustav James was in attendance and addressed issues regarding water supply directly.
“We will coordinate with WAPA now and make sure that there is an opportunity to get water into the area,” James said. “If there’s no opportunity now, the least we can do is make preparations such as sleeves or even laying the lines that they can connect to.”
James also responded to concerns regarding the increased water drainage off Clifton Hill Road as a result of the new construction. Mr. Khan noted that presently water is collected quickly but drains slowly in the La Reine intersection, where the run-off from Clifton Hill also flows. More efficient drainage off Clifton Hill could potentially cause flooding at the La Reine intersection.
Penn noted that Phase II of the project included suggestions for more efficient drainage plans but that those designs were still being finalized. The most immediate solution, James agreed, was to alleviate the existing blockage, which extends to the area around Home Depot, north of Melvin Evans Highway.
With the public meeting completed, the project, which has already received approval and funding from the Federal Highway Administration, will move forward as planned. Phase I will be open to bidding by the end of the year. At this time, construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2016 and be completed within two years.