Mayor Jeri Muoio of West Palm Beach Leads the Fight Against State Road 7 Expansion

Mayor Jeri Muoio took a stand against the expansion of State Road 7 (S.R. 7) in rural Palm Beach County at a news conference recently, announcing her intent to file a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA).

The city has long objected to the extension of the roadway along the western side of Grassy Waters Preserve, citing that it would lead to pollution-generating traffic, threatening the preserve and the city’s supply of drinking water. It has been an issue for the mayor during her term, and has been a topic in the current mayoral campaign. This is one subject that Muoio and her opponent Kimberly Mitchell agree.

“I have led the fight against S.R. 7 for the next four years I pledge to do whatever it takes to prevent that project from endangering our water supply and our wildlife,” said Muoio. “Until now, our fight has been limited to public hearings and private meetings. We will be sending both these agencies official notice…starting the next phase of this fight.”

The lawsuit will be the first filed as part of the city’s ongoing opposition to the project. While the road has not been cut all the way through, two phases of construction have been completed.

S.R. 7 currently dead-ends north of Okeechobee Boulevard at Grassy Waters Preserve, environmentally sensitive land that provides West Palm Beach’s water supply. Drivers who want to go north have to take Royal Palm Beach Boulevard, which winds through the Acreage. The approval for the expansion of the road from the federal government, following an environmental assessment, would extend S. R. 7 to Northlake Boulevard. State and county officials say the expansion is a vital transportation link, necessary to ease traffic. They assert that the road can be built without threatening the preserve or the water supply. Applications for federal and state permits for the expansion could be filed within the next 90 days.

Mayor Muoio is joined in her concerns that construction could harm a drinking water source and the preserve’s natural ecosystem by the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, according to the content of a statement released by the city. She also has the backing of Rep. Lois Frankel and Commissioner Keith James, who were with the mayor at the press conference, on the matter.

“We are going to continue to press through the agencies and to keep this pristine, beautiful environment the way it should be,” said Frankel, whose office has reportedly sent a letter to the leadership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Jeri Muoio has been an elected official for nine years, the past four as mayor, since being elected in March 2011. She previously served on the West Palm Beach City Commission, first in 2006 and again in 2007 and 2009, after being re-elected by voters. Muoio received a doctorate from Syracuse University and a graduate degree from the State University of New York (S.U.N.Y Oswego). A resident of West Palm Beach, she and her husband, Charles, have a daughter and three grandchildren.

A General Election for the City of West Palm Beach will be held on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

Release ID: 76519