CRESTVIEW — The West Florida Regional Planning Council’s Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization is updating its long-range transportation plan, consultant Wiley Page said.
He began his report with a concern already evident to residents and councilmen alike.
“No news to you, Highway 85 is bad,” Page said.
Okaloosa County’s population is expected to grow from 190,800 residents last year to 204,400 by 2025 and 221,900 by 2040, with much of that growth in the north end, Page said during a recent presentation to the City Council.
The Planning Council is now looking ahead to 2040, forming a list of about 100 projects it believes will be needed to improve traffic flow.
“But available money will only cover about 20,” Page cautioned.
Several south county roads, including, State Road 20 between Niceville and into Walton County, are forecast to become “borderline congested.”
But in Crestview, no arteries are expected to be borderline. Instead they jump right to “very congested,” including State Road 85 and the P.J. Adams-Antioch Road Corridor.
U.S. Highway 90 from Antioch Road east to S.R. 85 is forecast to be only “congested.”
IN THE WORKS
Page, of Atkins North America’s Transportation Planning division, presented a list of nine major projects that the Florida Department of Transportation has on its “committed list.”
Of them, three are in Crestview:
●The four-phase P.J. Adams-Antioch Road widening, scheduled to begin this year
●Studying a new Interstate 10 interchange at Antioch Road, with a project development and environmental study—or PD&E—to start in the 2016-17 fiscal year
●A four-lane U.S. Hwy. 90 to S.R. 85 bypass study, with PD&E scheduled for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Page’s report also included the Planning Council’s preliminary 2040 plans. Included Crestview projects are:
●Six-laning Interstate 10
●Six-laning S.R. 85 from south of the Shoal River to the I-10 interchange
●Enlarging the S.R. 85-I-10 interchange
●Constructing a four-lane bypass southeast of Crestview, connecting to the Antioch Road Corridor
●Adding a four-lane bypass in the Old Bethel Road area, or using Old Bethel itself.
As previous studies have stated, building an east bypass around Crestview is considered unfeasible due to concerns by Eglin Air Force Base.
“There is concern about encroachment on Duke Field,” Page said. “There is some sensitivity about lighting.”
‘A DIFFICULT TASK’
Councilman JB Whitten said he was glad to see several Crestview projects in the plan.
“The most common question we get on the City Council is, 'When are you going to do something to fix our roads?'” Whitten said. “Nobody's given up on solving the transportation issues of the city of Crestview.”
County Public Works Director Jason Autrey said S.R. 85 is a perennial problem.
“You have a whole bunch of roads in the north end that go to one road, which is State Road 85, that then goes to a whole bunch of roads in the south end,” Autrey said, describing an “hourglass” congestion point.
“We are unfortunately chasing a very difficult task at this time.”