50 years ago: 1st part of I-95 in Palm Beach County opens
WEST PALM BEACH — Readers: Think of a time before Interstate 95.
It was only 50 years ago, on Dec. 14, 1966, that even the first portion in Palm Beach County opened.
While the interstate highway system was inaugurated in June 1956, it would be a decade before that first Palm Beach County segment opened. And while I-95 now runs 1,919 miles, the initial local part went all of 3.6 miles, from 45th Street to Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach.
It nevertheless repre- sented “a years-long battle against the forces of inertia, obstructionism and political double-dealing,” a Dec. 14 Palm Beach Post editorial said. “Almost every device and excuse in the book was used to delay construction.”
The little piece of I-95 would get no company for three years until it was extended north to Palm Beach Gardens in 1969.
Expansion continued piecemeal.
The part from Pompano Beach to Boca Raton opened in November 1973. It was December 1975 before portions were completed between Lake Worth and Hypoluxo and between Boynton Beach and Miami. (A bizarre aside: Boca High’s stadium was in the way, so in 1973, the feds moved it east.)
On July 3, 1976, the day before America’s Bicentennial, the expressway was complete between Palm Beach Gardens and Miami.
But the 29.7-mile stretch between Gardens and Fort Pierce stayed on draw- ing boards for more than 13 years. Many a longtime motorist recalls having to get off on PGA Boulevard and pay the turnpike toll — or worse. crawl up U.S. 1.
The delay? Mostly because few could agree on where the expressway would go.
Some wanted it to run east of Florida’s Turnpike. Environmentalists worried about the impact on the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee rivers, and favored a route about 6 miles west of the turnpike.
At one point, the feds said traffic counts didn’t justify it at all, suggesting the turnpike was enough.
The “missing link” finally opened Dec. 19, 1987.
Not everyone liked its path; for most of the stretch from Jupiter to northern Martin County, it runs side by side with the turnpike, so close that motorists can read signs on both highways. And it takes a big jog to the west at the St. Lucie Canal, coming back over about 20 miles later near State Road 70 west of Fort Pierce.
But at long last, the final gap in the interstate, from Maine to Miami, had been filled.
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Palm Beach and Broward county officials gathered in November 1973 at the Hillsboro Canal bridge (the dividing line between the two counties) to cut the ribbon for the opening of a 9-mile stretch of Interstate 95 between Boca Raton and Pompano Beach.
State and local dignitaries, including Gov. Bob Martinez, gathered on I-95 near County Road 714 west of Stuart in December 1987 to cut the ribbon opening the 30-mile “missing link” of I-95 between CR 714 and PGA Boulevard.