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U.S. 1 overpass in Vero Beach is one of FDOT’s options to address traffic congestion

BusinessU.S. 1 overpass in Vero Beach is one of FDOT's options to address traffic congestion

VERO BEACH — The Floridspan Depspanrtment of Trspannsportspantion is planning to improve traffic flow at U.S. 1 and Aviation Boulevard, a project that may include building an overpass over the railroad tracks.

About a dozen people attended FDOT’s public meeting Wednesday at the Heritage Center to give input and learn about the project, which still is in its early stages.

There’s not yet a cost estimate, officia;ls said. 

An overpass there is just one possibility; at the moment, it’s unclear what form the project will take, said FDOT project manager Vandana Nagole. 

“We’re going to look into different options,” Nagole said. “The intersection has operational issues that needed to be addressed.”

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Heavy traffic at the location is made worse by passing freight trains, often causing long delays. It’s a problem the Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization has had its eye on: In its 2045 long-range transportation plan, the MPO ranked the intersection as its sixth-highest priority for improvement.  

The problem is expected to worsen. By 2045, residents should expect 61% more traffic there, according to FDOT. And with Brightline’s higher-speed passenger service due to begin pspanssing through here next yespanr, drivers could expect up to 32 more trains a day through downtown Vero Beach.

Congestion at the U.S. 1-Aviation Boulevard intersection is an issue one resident experiences regularly. She felt it even on her way to Wednesday’s public meeting.

“We were backed up coming into Vero for miles because all of the turnoffs on (U.S. 1) past the hospital were blocked,” said JoAnne White, 71. “I just had to laugh, because this is why they’re having the meeting.”

White, who’s from Sebastian, says she avoids the area during rush hour because of the congestion.

For the project, FDOT is studying a 2-mile stretch of U.S. 1 between 21st and 41st streets. The stretch of road has had 137 crashes in the past five years, including 21 at the Aviation Boulevard intersection, according to FDOT. One of those crashes was fatal, and 52 resulted in injuries.

The Florida Department of Transportation released this graphic Oct. 20, 2022, depicting the dangers of the Aviation Boulevard intersection with U.S. 1 in Vero Beach.

White felt an overpass would be an excellent idea, she said.

“As long as traffic on Aviation Boulevard can get over the tracks, but then the flow is going to have to be back on U.S. 1 again,” she said.

FDOT has suggested other basic improvements, too, including adding or widening lanes, as well as adding a sidewalk west of the tracks or crossing improvements for pedestrians.

But congestion isn’t limited to the Aviation Boulevard intersection.

Another issue White pointed out: the U.S. 1 intersection at 37th Street, which leads to Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital and sees similar traffic problems.

“Looking at the map, there’s already businesses, homes and the tracks are there,” she said. “It really limits the road widening.”

While an overpass is a possibility, motorists shouldn’t expect to see one there any time soon.

FDOT is still studying the project’s traffic and environmental impacts. The study is expected to be complete by December 2024; then design can begin,according to FDOT.

Funding for construction will come after.

Until then, FDOT tentatively plans its next public meeting on the project in April or May. 

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