City seeks help to ease impending traffic surge
Sunrise wants highway ramp built by mall, arena
SUNRISE — Sunrise is running into a roadblock as it plans to transform the area surrounding the county’s hockey arena into an entertainment mecca.
“We are facing a tsunami of traffic,” Mayor Mike Ryan said. “We need improvements.”
Traffic is bad now and will only get worse if the corridor surrounding Sawgrass Mills mall goes forward with more than $1 billion in high-density development plans— including a casino, hotel and condo towers, Sunrise officials say.
They are trying to convince a reluctant state government to build a full Sawgrass Expressway interchange at Pat Salerno Drive, the main roadway leading to and from the BB&T Center. Right now, commuters can only access Pat Salerno Drive fromthe south.
Building the ramp would cost $53.3 million but would bring in only $6.8 million in tolls over a 30-year period, said Chad Huff, spokesman for Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise. Aside from the $46.5 million shortfall, state transportation officials say the proposed ramp would not dramatically improve traffic flow and violates the standard 2-mile separation between exit ramps.
Ryan says Turnpike Enterprise officials ar---
en’t taking into account Sawgrass Mills mall, which attracts 25 million visitors a year, or the mammoth developments that are on the way, including Metropica and Westerra.
Metropica calls for 2,250 residential units, a hotel, 400,000-square feet of retail and 650,000 square feet of office space. Westerra’s developer plans to build 1,750 residential units, 1.2 million square feet of office space and 285,000 square feet of commercial space.
Sunrise officials have been meeting with Gov. Rick Scott and are planning to push their idea to top transportation officials in March. County officials and corporate leaders plan to attend aswell, Ryan said.
“This is a no-brainer,” City Manager Richard Salamon said. “We don’t know why they’re so entrenched against it. It’s critical for the mall, the arena, the businesses and the residents.”
Louis Feuer, chair of the
Greater Sunrise Chamber of Commerce, is well aware of the traffic jams at the arena, which plays host to more than 100 events a year.
“I was at the Barbra Streisand show a couple months ago,” he said. “It took me half an hour to get home that night and I live a block and a half away.”
Feuer says he’s seen some drivers make a Uturn on Pat Salerno Drive as soon as they realize they can’t head north.
Ryan said state transportation officials made a mistake when they built Pat Salerno Drive back in 1998.
The county arena, which attracts an estimated 1 million visitors a year, opened that same year. Pat Salerno Drive was built on the north side of the arena linking to the Sawgrass Expressway without access to or from the north.
“All you have to do is attend a big event [at the arena] in the fall or winter,” Ryan said. “And when everyone leaves to head north it becomes a bottleneck on Flamingo Road and Oakland Park Boulevard. The fans who come out there to events should not have to snake their way through the roadways.”
The state plans to widen the Sawgrass Expressway and add express lanes south of Sunrise Boulevard and north of Atlantic Boulevard. Construction would begin in 2020. Costs and project deadlines are still being determined, Huff said.
Sunrise officials are hoping the state will incorporate their proposal for new ramps at Pat Salerno Drive – no matter the cost.
“We won’t have this opportunity again for 20 or 30 years ifwe don’t do it now,” Ryan said.
“We won’t have this opportunity again for 20 or 30 years if we don’t do it now.” Mike Ryan, Sunrise mayor
State officials are pushing back Sunrise’s request to build a full Sawgrass Expressway interchange at Pat Salerno Drive, saying the ramp won’t improve traffic flow.