Residents who drive on one of the most traveled sections of South Florida are up in arms over their tax dollars going to a roadway improvement project that intentionally slows the traffic down.
However, the City of Pompano Beach says there’s a method to what residents say is their madness.
“I might as well walk and give me my money back," said Dalisa Bowens, a six-year resident of Pompano Beach. "I don’t want to drive slower. I want to drive the speed limit. I don’t want to be stuck in traffic."
Bowens got a rude awakening recently on the way for morning coffee.
“I saw poles. I woke up one morning on my way to Dunkin Donuts, which is usually a five-minute trip, and I saw how traffic was so congested to the point I made a U-turn," Bowens said.
The poles are now up along Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach just east of I-95 and run for a distance in front of Pompano Beach City Hall. Those poles are cutting off one lane on Atlantic Boulevard in each direction. Drivers are puzzled over why two lanes got axed and aren’t coming back.
"It was just amazing how traffic was just sitting still," Bowens said. "It felt like for 10-20 minutes and I saw it happening every day. I was like, what is going on?"
A list of drivers expressed their frustrations to NBC 6.
"The traffic’s definitely worse," Jessie Miller said.
"It’s been crazy," Joe Lawrence added.
Sandra King, who represents the City of Pompano Beach, spoke exclusively to NBC 6 about the uproar.
“What you’re seeing right now at Dixie and Atlantic is the beginning of redevelopment of a brand new downtown for Pompano Beach,” she said.
The city got $25 million from the state and county and is cutting off the lanes of traffic to make way for a beautification project that will bring pedestrian walkways, sitting areas, bike lanes for a grand entrance to the city with new restaurants, retail shops, and apartments nearby.
“Right now it's kind of hard to envision because you don’t see anything," King said.
Drivers along Atlantic Boulevard said they don’t have any trouble seeing the blocked intersections.
“Right now we have some growing pains," King said. "We started off in a rough patch. Clearly, it is a disaster, to begin with.”
The traffic engineers hired by Pompano Beach found that on a single day, almost 175,000 drivers pass by city hall. The city’s own projections show that the new traffic pattern will slow the traffic down in both directions on Atlantic Boulevard. Experts estimate it will take between 30 seconds and up to three minutes longer to get from I-95 to the ocean or from the beach to 95.
Drivers called those estimates unrealistic. Bowens laughed at the numbers.
“It just made no sense to me why they cut down the traffic," she said.
Since the pandemic, Bowen started running her life insurance and stock investment business from home and not on Atlantic Boulevard as much. In the big picture, she thinks the city making a mistake.
“It's going to bring more hurt than the attraction they are trying to bring, and I really think they should rethink how they are doing this," Bowen said.
Pompano Beach says it has seen some improvements by syncing traffic lights and hopes to do more of that.
“It’s still backing up. So we're not done yet,” King said. “People will seek alternate routes if they want to zoom from one place to another, but traffic will eventually flow.”
The city realizes what’s underway is a tough sell.
“I absolutely get it. We are asking people a lot," King said. "We are asking people to have a vision that they don’t see."
It's a hard concept to follow, but the city says when all this is over, while drivers may be going slower, more of them will get to their destinations quicker because they can drive closer to the car in front of them.
The next time residents will have a chance weigh in is in early December at the city commission meeting, but for now, the poles stay.