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The flyover: How it paved the way to modern PGA Boulevard

The PGA flyover from below in 2022. The city paid extra for the towers, decorated by steel spheres.

In the early 2000s, Legacy Place, Downtown at the Gardens and many other developments could not be built until the state elevated PGA Boulevard over Alternate A1A and the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. 

By smoothing traffic flow at the busy intersection, the move aimed to avoid widening the six-lane PGA to eight or 10 lanes. 

The city began asking for the PGA flyover in 1995, work began in February 2002 and it opened in 2005. 

The flyover cost the state $71.7 million, including $12 million for 35 acres along PGA Boulevard to provide space for lakes to capture stormwater. The biggest lake is on the northwest corner of Legacy Place.

The flyover provides a direct connection to Interstate 95 that now causes daily backups on PGA as cars line up to go southbound on the highway. 

The PGA flyover in 2021.

The question of traffic, growth and what can be done about it is at the center of the third in a series of panel discussions offered by the Palm Beach Gardens Historical Society at 6:30 p.m. Thursday March 28 at Palm Beach State College’s PGA Boulevard campus. 

Gardens Mayor Chelsea Reed headlines a stellar panel that also includes land planner Ken Tuma and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council policy director Kim Delaney. It will be moderated by Historic Society board member Lisa Goldman. 

The panel commemorates the city’s 65th anniversary. Refreshments will be served, compliments of the Mirasol Jersey Mike’s.

The first of at least two FPL buildings rise along the PGA flyover in 2021.

The flyover was needed to overcome restrictions imposed by county rules that prohibited development until nearby roads could handle the traffic.Those rules are no longer in effect.

While the flyover ended the need for a railroad crossing at PGA Boulevard, it prompted the addition of a new crossing a quarter-mile north. The new crossing allowed traffic leaving the Gardens Mall to go west to Military Trail, another step taken to relieve PGA Boulevard traffic.

The result was Kyoto Gardens Drive crossing the tracks at Alternate A1A and linking to the Trail. Also RCA Center Drive was added to connect north-south to Kyoto Gardens beneath the flyover bridge.

Kyoto Gardens Drive looking east in 2021.

Kyoto Gardens Drive looking west in 2023.

In 1999, as the flyover took shape and development expanded along PGA Boulevard, the PGA Corridor Association took root to protect business interests along the city’s most prominent boulevard. 

The Gardens City Council, buttressed by the Corridor Association, insisted on efforts to beautify the flyover, reasoning that it would be a critical feature in the city’s image. The council wanted planter boxes, special streetlights, mini towers and other features that can still be seen on the bridge today.

The state estimated the extra costs at $6.5 million, vowing to provide $2.7 million and leaving the rest to the city. The city contributed about $3.5 million for the improvements. 

The city selected Bethesda, Md., artist Wendy Ross to decorate the overpass with four steel spheres. But about five months after the spheres were installed in 2006 they began to rust, prompting the city to return them to Ross to clean and coat them. The money for the spheres and the cleanup job came from the city’s Art in Public Places account, which comes from developers. 

On its website, the Corridor Association takes credit for beautifying the bridge. 

“The PGA Corridor Association insisted that the ‘Entrance to Commerce’ on PGA Boulevard needed to emphasize the community's development and high design standards. The association commissioned a local architect and worked with local developers and governmental agencies to design the aesthetically pleasing structure we have today.”

— Joel Engelhardt

The city paid extra to get planters and trees along the flyover, seen here in 2022.

The FEC Railway tracks were double-tracked to accommodate Brightline, seen here beneath the PGA Flyover in 2022.

Looking east over the PGA flyover bridge in 2021.

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