One simple bypass could relieve congestion around Crestview High School and Davidson Middle School. The road is already there — it just needs to be paved.

CRESTVIEW — Traffic is a top concern in the Hub City. But did you know there's a way to improve peak traffic flow around Davidson Middle School and Crestview High School?

And it's really quite simple: Just pave Jones Road as an alternative to State Road 85.

“My dad was always so dumbfounded that county roads got paved stretching so far out into the country, but this road, which would be such a pivotal connector, alleviating traffic on 85, remained unpaved,” Crestview resident Bruce Teel said of his late father, Billy.

SLOWDOWNS

When school starts or dismisses, drivers encounter slowdowns around Old Bethel and Airport roads' intersection with S.R. 85. This is due to parents entering and leaving the schools, 25 mph school zones and the intersection’s traffic light.

But Jones Road remains almost empty, paralleling S.R. 85 behind DMS and CHS before entering the Adams-Powell neighborhood or joining S.R. 85 via Park Lane. Scenic, rural and unpaved from Old Bethel Road south to Adams-Powell, Jones Road has minimal neighborhood traffic and no school zone speed limit restrictions.

In addition to bypassing backups, the few drivers who use Jones Road also bypass S.R. 85’s traffic signals at Old Bethel/Airport Road and Garden Street, respectively. “I used to use Jones Road all the time when I attended Bob Sikes Elementary,” said Crestview attorney Bert Moore, whose family has lived on Old Bethel Road for generations.

‘IT’S MADDENING’

Bruce Teel’s sister, Ann Teel Hatcher, said their dad promoted paving Jones Road for years, gathering project feasibility information from city and county sources. She said his volunteer efforts accumulated enough community service hours to secure almost $5,000 in State Farm Foundation Good Neighbor Grants for DMS, CHS and the Okaloosa County School District.

Their mother, Clara Jo Teel, still champions her late husband's effort. “To go out to a band concert, or the chorus or the drama club is just maddening,” she said. “On a game night, it isn’t just Crestview residents involved, but all the guests are joining in the madness to get in.”

Drivers improvise parking spots along local streets or use lots at neighboring businesses, including at the Crestview post office and First NBC bank across the street from the high school. “People are walking across four lanes of highway, with cars coming and going, to get to the school grounds,” Clara Jo Teel said. “That doesn’t make good sense to me.”

OFF THE RADAR

After Billy Teel died in 2012, paving Jones Road dropped off local and county officials’ radar. Okaloosa County Public Works Director Jason Autrey said current focus is on paving Okaloosa Lane's middle section. “It’s a road that we maintain but it’s not on our capital improvement plan at this time,” he said.

CHS Principal Dexter Day said pastureland across Jones Road could offer expansion opportunities for the county’s largest school. He could see building a new high school there someday, or athletic facilities in the short term. “We’re in dire straits for practice facilities,” Day said. “Look at soccer: we have four teams. Where do they practice? We have five basketball teams and one gym. Where do they practice? We’ve grown, but we haven’t grown our facilities”

Even without buying the land across the street — “We’d love for someone to come up and say, ‘I’ll purchase that for the school," Day said — paving Jones Road will help the school. “That would knock down the dust when we have graduation and games back there,” he said.

“If it’s something the school would like to discuss, they can pursue it,” Autrey said. “They can do it like Okaloosa Lane, which is one we’re heavily pushing."

Without being on the capital improvement plan, there is currently no cost calculated for acquiring right-of-way and paving the road, Autrey said.

DUST STORM

Mayor David Cadle said talks between the county and city about paving Jones Road diminished when the economy took a downturn in the late 2000s.

Though the city only has jurisdiction over about 200 feet on Jones Road's south end, Cadle said tight financial resources must be spent on Crestview streets. “The Public Services Department has a hard time keeping up with our own city streets,” he said.

But, he agreed, the Teel family’s plan has merit for many reasons. “When it comes to graduation, people are parked all the way up Garden Street to Jones Road,” Cadle, a former Crestview High educator, said. “There’s just no place to park. And we always used to wet the road down for graduation to kill the dust.”

Something must be done soon, the Jones Road plan's supporters say.

“We’ve got to plan, because if we’re not planning, we’re planning to fail,” Day said. “How are we investing for our kids and our community?”

“It’s just crazy that it’s not paved,” Bruce Teel said.