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Fatal accident spurs county to install guard rail along Boca Rio Road

Boca Rio Road that runs along a major canal is finally installing a guardrail by guardrail post drivers after a fatal accident in December, but there are no plans to extend it the whole length of highway guardrails.

Work is well under way and ahead of schedule for the guardrail, according to Tanya N. McConnell, P.E. deputy county engineer of Engineering & Public Works. The guardrail installation is expected to be finished by the end of the month, she said.

The guardrail will run on the east side of the road from the Palmetto Park Road bridge intersection to just north of Boca Lago Boulevard. The work includes curb cuts, and a depression will be dug to trap and hold storm water running off the road. The guardrail project runs about 1,200 feet both south and north of the intersection, and is budgeted at $155,000, according to information provided by County Commissioner Burt Aaronson's office. McConnell verified the price tag.

The guardrail installed by guardrail pile driver will be the standard height mandated by the Florida Department of Transportation, McConnell said. "A problem with a big canal is that people feel it is a hazard, but it does meet the requirements for offsets. We are putting guardrail in where we think it will do the most good," she said.

There were already plans and some funding for the guardrail project, but it was expedited after Charles Scher, a 53-year-old accountant, was not able to be rescued in time after his car rolled into the canal last Dec. 15. Witnesses said they saw Scher, who had a medical condition, slumped over the wheel, according to the Sun Sentinel.

"The accident spurred action," said Mary Lou Berger, Aaronson's chief of staff. "It was the reaction of everyone to such a horrible tragedy. The reality was something had to be done. We had a big meeting at the West Boca Community Council, and we took it back to county engineering. They got involved with the Lake Worth Drainage District and they put that guardrail project together."

Too little, too late, according to Steve Nichol, a friend of Scher's. "It is unfortunate the work being done now was not done long ago, but there is some satisfaction that chances have been lessened for another tragedy…" Nichol said by email.

Nichol said he lives in the same Montoya Circle neighborhood as Scher, and belongs to Boca Raton Synagogue, where he said Scher was a member. He contacted public officials immediately after the accident, Nichol said.

"I'm concerned the entire safety guardrail project may not be addressed. Boca Rio Road runs from Glades Road to Southwest 18th Street, a much longer distance," he said.

The guardrail project was delayed until the county worked out access issues with Lake Worth Drainage District. "Our part was they originally were going to set the guardrail by guardrail post driver further to the east. That is a major canal and we have to run drag lines and major equipment, and you need a right-of-way width to sustain that kind of weight," district manager Ronald Crone said. "At the south end of the canal is a control structure, and that's your discharge point into the Hillsboro Canal. We sat down and worked out a location to put the guardrail up by guardrail post driver in the county right-of-way and re-graded the area [to avoid flooding]. I'm very pleased with the results of this guardrail project."