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Okaloosa approves major overhaul of Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island

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 […]

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.

Concept of the new Brooks Bridge dropping onto Okaloosa Island

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…

Five-lane section of Santa Rosa Boulevard

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.

Three-lane section of Santa Rosa Boulevard

“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.
Two-lane section of Santa Rosa Boulevard

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.
Two-lane section of Santa Rosa Boulevard with roundabout at west-end

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.

3 Responses

  1. Too bad the MAJORITY of Okaloosa Island has been opposed to this project since the beginning…

  2. This is just bad design and engineering. Contact state stop any funding for this project.

  3. Kudos for going to fix the biking and sidewalk, we are in desperate need for a safe biking lane and a better pedestrian lane, both are currently not adequate. To bad they couldn’t keep the 4 lanes running all the way to the proposed roundabout. Going down to 3 and then 2 lanes is going to cause serious traffic problems during peak tourist seasons for both locals and tourists, I believe the real world model was correct and Autrey’s proposed concept model being used was/is inaccurate. Can’t believe Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners is going to fall for Autrey’s proposal.

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Community Comments

“Agreed…that was our favorite spot for locals to go…under the Marler bridge…to swim and watch the boat traffic. Was beautiful!”
“I have heard this before but without the details. Thanks.”
“That was a good story it brought back a lot of good memories. I lived there about 35 years ago met some good people ate a lot of good food...”
“Please open our bridge under neath the Destin bridge please we grew up here only for the locals this is crazy honestly the locals really have Nowhere they can go...”
“We must do whatever it takes to remove the current sheriff. He is a failed leader, no doubt about it nothing but an excuse maker, totally incompetent in over his...”
“...and food for enjoyment! Big smile.”
“can okaloosa county residents can get a year pass for henderson beach park?”
“Congratulations on giving back to your community. This is an awesome need when young people are returning to school. Blessings over blessings to you this upcoming season.”
“I’m not at all a sociallist or liberal. I just want safety for myself and others. Ron Desantis pledged money for this. I was refrencing Europe in regards to e-bike...”