New Eller Drive overpass to ease traffic delays on U.S. 1, State Road 84
Relief is ahead from cargo trucks rumbling down heavily traveled roads and freight trains causing traffic delays. Ground was broken Tuesday for an overpass to divert cargo traffic.
By Michael Turnbell
It will be two years in the making, but a new four-lane overpass and rail yard at Port Everglades should take up to 130,000 cargo-hauling semis and trucks off neighboring roads like U.S. 1 and prevent trains from blocking traffic on State Road 84, officials say.
The $42.5 million overpass will carry traffic on Eller Drive from the eastern end of Interstate 595 directly into the port.
Many of the big trucks Broward motorists now see rumbling down local streets hauling goods between the Florida East Coast Railway’s South Andrews Avenue rail yard and the port will go away.
Instead, the cargo be transferred directly between ship and rail at the port.
And since trains will be assembled at the port instead of the Andrews Avenue yard, commuters will no longer have to put up with frustrating delays at the State Road 84 crossing caused by trains loading and unloading.
Drivers like Thomas Harrington of Plantation said he once got held up by a train for more than an hour on State Road 84.
“After 50 minutes I was so mad I called the Fort Lauderdale Police Department,” he said. “Then I got out of the car and went to others also stopped and told them to call the police. After 15 minutes more, the train finally moved on south.”
Traffic that enters the port’s main entrance off Eller Drive or comes from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport must now contend with a confusing intersection and traffic signals at Northeast Seventh Avenue, the first intersection east of where I-595 ends.
Officials say congestion on Eller Drive would get even worse once the FEC rail spur is extended across the road into the port, halting traffic for lumbering freight trains.
When completed in late 2013, Eller Drive will rise over the intersections of Northeast Seventh and 14th avenues and above a new FEC rail spur leading to a new rail yard and new container facility.
At the Port of Miami, the Florida Department of Transportation is building a $1 billion tunnel under Biscayne Bay to take trucks off downtown Miami streets and provide easier access to the port. Work also is under way to directly connect the FEC to the Port of Miami.
Gov. Rick Scott, who joined state and Broward County officials to break ground for the Eller Drive overpass Tuesday, said the improvements at both ports will position them to compete for a share of cargo from megaships that will be able to pass through a widened Panama Canal in 2014.
Scott said the projects aid his goal of making Florida “the shipping capital of the East Coast.”
Port director Phil Allen said the overpass construction is expected to create about 770 jobs. Work already is under way to realign the tracks and install barrier walls for road work.
The Eller Drive overpass will not eliminate all truck traffic from U.S. 1 and nearby roads. Trucks bound for the north area of the port probably will still use the entrance off State Road 84, said project administrator Ido Shimony.
And traffic headed to and from the central or south areas will use the overpass directly from I-595. It’s the local trips between the port and the Andrews Avenue rail yard that will go away, Shimony said.
Officials say the overpass also will ease cruise passenger traffic between the port and the airport. The current ramp from the airport to the port also will be elevated onto the overpass, providing speedier access for shuttles and taxis traveling between the two hubs.
The project will be built in two phases. Service roads paralleling the overpass for local traffic and people heading to businesses such as the Park ’N Fly lot off Northeast Seventh Avenue will be built first, followed by the overpass.
The new configuration also will improve a confusing intersection where I-595 becomes Eller Drive at Seventh Avenue.
At least one driver in the past 11 years was killed in a head-on collision going the wrong way on I-595 after incorrectly turning into the eastbound lanes from Seventh Avenue. As part of the new project, drivers coming from Seventh Avenue will be able to get to westbound I-595 via a new ramp.