High school + shopping center
= traffic nightmare
Parents worried illegal turns will lead to accident at Boca High
EVOL HUGGINS/STAFF PHOTO - Some Boca High parents are saying that Northwest 15th Court, the two-lane
road that separates the school from the recently opened University Commons shopping plaza, isn't big
enough for both students and plaza patrons. "Someone is going to get killed," said Ona Zerra, whose
16-year-old son encountered traffic problems during his first week of classes at Boca High.
By Susanna Laurenti
When Boca Raton High School was built in 1963, it was surrounded by empty space
and quiet suburbs.
What a difference 38 years makes.
Today the 1,900-student school sits across the street from a major shopping center
developed by Florida Atlantic University and opened a few months ago.
And Boca High parents say Northwest 15th Court, the two-lane road that separates
the school from the stores, isn't big enough for both students and plaza patrons.
"Someone is going to get killed," said Ona Zerra, whose 16-year-old son encountered
traffic problems resulting from the University Commons shopping center during his
first week of classes at Boca High.
Just east of Interstate 95, University Commons stretches along Glades Road and is
bordered on the north by Northwest 15th Court. Drivers can exit the plaza by turning
right onto that road but are not supposed to enter the shopping center that way. In
fact, two "No Left Turn" signs and a "Do Not Enter" sign warn motorists against
Even so, Zerra said, motorists regularly try to turn left across Northwest 15th Court,
a feat nearly impossible when the road is clogged with students leaving school around
3 p.m. each afternoon.
"The police come and put up cones, but people knock them down every day," Zerra
said. "It's only a matter of time before there is some sort of road rage altercation."
The issue was a hot topic Monday at a meeting of Boca High's School Advisory
Council. Parents talked about boycotting the plaza or complaining to FAU officials.
During a 10-minute period Wednesday afternoon, four drivers turned illegally into the
plaza while another five proceeded to the shopping center's service entrance, which
also opens onto Northwest 15th Court. The scene was chaotic given the 20
mile-per-hour school-zone speed limit, approaching school buses and impatient
students leaving Boca High's parking lot at high speeds.
Student driver Miken Slattery, 16, said she'd noticed a difference in traffic around
Boca High since the plaza opened.
"There's a lot more traffic around here," she said.
"It's really risky," agreed Elizabeth Brown, 16. "They should just make the
City of Boca Raton traffic analyst John Reilly is working to do just that.
"We knew there was a problem on the first day the first shop opened [in University
Commons]," said Reilly. "The design did not end up as good as we initially thought it
Reilly said city officials recommended that the center's developer, Schmeir &
Feurring Leasing of Boca Raton eliminate the Northwest 15th Court exit, but the
recommendation was disregarded. Now, traffic managers are planning to carefully
study the area after the plaza's final vendor, J. Alexander's restaurant, opens several
weeks from now.
Based on that study, Reilly said one of the following would probably happen:
* the north-facing entrance would be closed completely;
* a left-turn lane would be built onto NW 15th Court to safely accommodate turning
* a median would be built to prevent illegal turns.
In the meantime, signs have been erected to direct drivers into the plaza, including
one on Glades Road stating that the entrance to University Commons is east of
Northwest 15th Court.
But Ronnie Young, who made an illegal left turn into the shopping center Wednesday,
said he didn't see the signs and didn't know what traffic planners expected drivers to
"It doesn't make sense. It gives you the idea that you should turn here to get in," said
Young, 32, of Sunrise. "There should be a sign or something."