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The Case for Completing Palmetto Pk Rd Shared Use Path

by Jim Wood

This article discusses the Palmetto Park Shared Use Path improvement project that was stopped short of its goal. The path was supposed to be improved from State Road7/US 441 to NW 2nd Avenue in Boca Raton. Unfortunately, the project was stopped about a block west of the El Rio canal and not completed.


In 2011 Palm Beach County was prepared to add two additional lanes to Palmetto Park Road between Military Trail and NW/SW 12th Avenue. Residents objected to the quality of life impacts of the project and the City requested, and the County concurred, to keep that section of road six lanes. In 2014 the City requested that the existing asphalt trail/narrow sidewalk that parallels the road be upgraded to a wide shared-use path. According to a County official:

“… the City wants a ‘premium facility’ that promotes biking and walking on the six-lane road, said Nick Uhren, executive director of the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county’s transportation planning agency. The agency lists the proposed trail as a top priority for the next five years.

The nearly 7-mile proposed trail would be at least 10-feet wide and separated from traffic. The trail that exists now isn’t adequate to meet the needs of both cyclists and pedestrians, he said. And Palmetto has no bike lanes.

If you’re a cyclist, you have nowhere to ride on Palmetto. Recently, we’ve talked a lot about making our [road] more comfortable, comfortable enough to encourage average people to get out and walk and bike.”

Streeter, A (2014, December 9). Biking, walking trail proposed on Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton. South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The County approved the City’s request to widen the trail and construction began in April, 2018. The project was estimated at $4M with no funding by the City.

Construction not Completed

Although upgrades to the trail were planned to extend to NW 2nd Avenue, the project was stopped before completion in August, 2019. This left 0.6 miles of the project incomplete. The following picture shows the end of the new trail. It was taken about ½ block west of the entrance to St. Paul Lutheran Church and School. The section at the bottom of the picture was widened to 11’ and joined to the original section at the top of the picture where the path narrows to 6’.

Eastbound Palmetto Pk Rd multi-use eastbound narrows to below regulation width
Eastbound Palmetto Pk Rd shared use path eastbound where it narrows to join un-renovated sidewalk for last half mile into downtown Boca Raton

The El Rio canal bridge was also planned to be widened along with the trail, but that seems to have stopped along with the trail enhancement. The following picture shows how dangerous crossing the bridge is for cyclists. Cyclists with child trailers or recumbent bikes for example, need to stop and walk their bikes across the bridge. It is also a problem if another cyclist or pedestrian is encountered on the bridge.

Sidewalk Palmetto Pk Rd east of El Rio canal bridge
Sidewalk Palmetto Pk Rd just east of El Rio canal bridge

Just east of Palmetto Dune Park the trail narrows to 3’, which makes passing another cyclist or pedestrian on the trail impossible. 

Eastbound Palmetto Pk Rd sidewalk approaching 4th Ave
Eastbound Palmetto Pk Rd sidewalk approaching 4th Ave

Many cities across the country are providing alternate forms of transportation to deal with vehicle traffic, climate impact and improve residents’ health. The following picture shows the contrast between cycling and walking paths in Fayetteville Arkansas and Boca Raton Florida.

Fayetteville Arkansas multi-use trail vs Boca Raton Florida
Fayetteville Arkansas shared use path vs Boca Raton Florida. Photo courtesy of Wes Craiglow – BikeNWA. Used with permission.

It’s not clear why the Palmetto Park Shared-Use Trail project was not completed. BocaFirst will continue investigating the matter and will provide updates and plans for completion.

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