At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, Okaloosa approved a new concept improvement plan that will bring some major renovations to Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island.
- After a series of town hall meetings, seeking input from the public, and concept iterations, Public Works Director Jason Autrey presented the proposed concept to the commissioners.
In the presentation, Autrey presented the concept with the to-be-built Brooks Bridge. The new bridge will go over Santa Rosa Boulevard, and Santa Rosa Boulevard will have a side road dedicated for access to and from the bridge. In fact, it will have two access points on the Brooks Bridge.
If you want to go from Okaloosa Island or Santa Rosa Boulevard to Fort Walton Beach, you will drive underneath Highway 98, loop around, and come up onto Brooks Bridge in a dedicated receiving lane.
Additionally, there will be a traffic signal on Santa Rosa Boulevard and it will sit a bit to the west of where the Tom Thumb driveway is now. According to Autrey, that light will cycle at a significantly better rate than what it currently does because you have completely excluded Highway 98 traffic.
“If you want to put numbers to it, of the 50,000 cars that would go through the intersection, 45,000 or more are no longer involved in that intersection,” he explained. “You’ve dramatically changed the way that it operates. It will be far more efficient.”
All that stuff is happening due to the new Brooks Bridge. Now let’s talk what the county will be doing…
The current five-lane section of roadway will continue on Santa Rosa Boulevard near the bridge, with added stormwater improvements. This section will remain five-lanes and then drop down to four-lanes until Beach Access #1.
- Five-lanes will have 2 east and westbound lanes with a median for left turns.
- Four-lanes will have 2 westbound lanes, 1 eastbound lane and a median for left turns.
After Beach Access #1, Santa Rosa Boulevard will reduce to three-lanes with 2 westbound lanes and 1 eastbound lane.
“The theory behind that is if you’re driving down Santa Rosa Boulevard and you are looking for where you want to go, that middle lane is an opportunity for drivers to maybe be a little bit more slower and cautious and still allow traffic to go around them on the outside,” explained Autrey.
- According to Autrey, only one-lane is needed when heading eastbound because the vast majority of people are go to Highway 98.
Additionally, Autrey says that with the proposed three-lane segment, every single driveway will have unabated left turn access into it, whether you are eastbound or westbound.
- “So the U-turns that people are seeing and experiencing, they disappear,” said Autrey.
After Beach Access #4, it will go down to a two-lane segment. According to the presentation, by removing two lanes, the county will be able to design and construct a stormwater management system.
- Additionally, by reduced down to two-lanes, they have added a 6ft bike lane on the edge of the roadway on each side.
And finally, the very western-end of Santa Rosa Boulevard will include a roundabout near the El Matador. Autrey says this will be large enough for all vehicles, including large moving trucks.
Along the entire length of the roadway, there will be a 14 foot wide multi-use path that’s wide enough for bicyclist, pedestrians and low-speed vehicles.
Autrey pointed out that the existing five-lane setup on Santa Rosa Boulevard sees traffic that backs up to Azure Condominiums just before Beach Access #1. He says they took current traffic count from FDOT (at peak hours in peak season) and plugged it into their real-world model of the existing roadway and it does show a traffic backup.
- However, Autrey demonstrated that using the same FDOT data inside the proposed concept model, and traffic does not backup.
The project is estimated to cost about $10 million and will make use of half-cent sales tax money along with other types of funding.
Too bad the MAJORITY of Okaloosa Island has been opposed to this project since the beginning…
This is just bad design and engineering. Contact state reps.to stop any funding for this project.