By Russ Blackburn, Port St. Lucie City Manager
The start of construction for the Crosstown Parkway Extension Project marks a new beginning for the City of Port St. Lucie, residents and visitors. The six lane divided highway and bridge is the biggest project the City has ever undertaken and this bridge will be the heart and soul of our vibrant and growing community. With any bridge project of this scope, there will be impacts to the natural environment. It is imperative to balance the needs of our City of almost 180,000 residents and our obligation to protect natural resources. City leaders have worked diligently to fairly balance all of these demands regarding the Crosstown Parkway Extension Project. This is how we did it:
For our residents, business owners and visitors, the Project will:
- Provide a much needed third east-west connection across the North Fork of the St. Lucie River (NFSLR) from Manth Lane into U.S. Highway 1 at the Village Green Drive intersection, alleviating traffic congestion on Port St. Lucie and Prima Vista Boulevards;
- Improve safety and emergency response times;
- Provide a new evacuation route for hurricanes and other emergencies;
- Improve travel times across the City, enhances both pedestrian and vehicular mobility, and provides new recreation opportunities.
For the surrounding environmentally sensitive lands, the City has taken extraordinary steps to mitigate and offset impacts from the Project, including:
- Giving 110 acres of desired land to the state to expand the Savannas Preserve State Park in conservation. These lands lie in the same St. Lucie basin.
- Working with St. Lucie County to complete the Platts Creek Water Quality and wetland restoration site, which created new wildlife habitats;
- Constructed the Savannas Recreation Multi-Use Trail off Midway Road, giving residents a new way to enjoy our natural areas;
- Replaced and improved the Evans Creek Canoe Launch, making it more accessible and ADA compliant for residents while expanding recreational options on the River;
- Expanded and improved the Savannas Preserve State Park Education Center off Walton Road, giving schools, visitors and residents a new way to enjoy and learn about the Preserve.
With these projects, the City invested into the community, more mitigation projects than required by the permits. The City completed these projects as a good faith effort well in advance of the permitting and building of the actual bridge. While it’s not unusual for these sorts of mitigation projects to be completed in counties outside the affected project area, all of Crosstown’s mitigation is within our St. Lucie basin and are available for City residents to utilize and enjoy here at home.
Dating back as far as 1980, leaders envisioned the need for a third crossing over the NFSLR. Residents of Port St. Lucie helped make it a reality in 2005 with a city-wide election when more than 89 percent of
voters approved the funding for the design and construction of the project. To get to this point, the City and our project partners followed the project design and engineering process and thoroughly evaluated the different route alternatives for the social, community, physical and environmental impacts the bridge would have on the area.
While balancing all the impacts to the community and environment, we are finally moving forward and ready to see this project become a reality. Our investment and concern for the environment does not stop now that construction starts. The City and our project partners will closely monitor all construction efforts. All workers will be trained by our in-house environmental specialist. Even the method to build the bridge, using a temporary bridge called a trestle will help minimize impacts for the project. We look forward to sharing this exciting project with the community and residents and there are several ways to stay informed including our project website, crosstownextension.com. Stay tuned as we are planning a construction open house in the near future and groundbreaking event, as well as a job fair.