CRESTVIEW The P.J. Adams Parkway-Antioch Road corridor could begin providing traffic congestion relief in less than 10 years and without raised taxes if local and county governments support a tax increment financing proposal.

Attendees at a Dec. 2 Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce panel discussion learned that the plan, known as a TIF, could even be in place within a year.

Panelists described the virtues of a TIF, which is funded by establishing a baseline and allocating the difference between the baseline and future tax increases to a specific project.

"A TIF is a tool for financing something that you need for the public good," Okaloosa Economic Development Council Vice President Kay Rasmussen said. "People assume (that) because 'tax' is in the name, it's a new tax, and that is not what it is."

Designated by law

Money raised in the TIF district which would encompass all of the county north of the Eglin reservation would by law be only used for the corridor, Crestview city planner Eric Davis said.

"We must tell the public this is not a new tax and it will not get raided by future (county) commissions for other projects," Davis said.

At local attorney Mike Chesser's urging, Davis and other officials began looking into the TIF concept as a means of raising local matching dollars to attract federal and state road money.

"If the TIF can grow to $40 or $50 million, then we can come to the table for the next grant the federal government has and we can say, 'Come on: We have the plans, we have the land give us the money,'" Davis said.

The proposed traffic corridor project would include widening P.J. Adams and Antioch to four lanes from State Road 85 to U.S. Highway 90.

A recently state-approved alternative route would branch off at Arena Road for northeast-bound traffic, allowing west-bound traffic to Holt and Baker to follow the existing route.

Ready in a year

The project's expected cost is $120 million. A University of West Florida Haas Business Center study shows a TIF could raise $47 million in matching funds in 20 years.

Construction could actually begin well before the TIF expires, using its future funds as collateral to raise bonds to finance the corridor.

TIFS are already successfully in place in several county communities, including Crestview's Community Redevelopment Agency district, Former Elections Supervisor Pat Hollarn said.

Davis said a draft TIF ordinance has been prepared and, if approved, could be in place by the next fiscal year.

Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.