CRESTVIEW — Wayne Harris, who spent most of his two terms as a county commissioner battling to get Okaloosa Lane in Crestview paved, spoke succinctly when told work that needed to be accomplished is at long last getting underway.
“About damn time,” he said.
Harris recalled epic battles trying to convince residents living along the roadway to release some land so the county could pave Okaloosa Lane and put in sidewalks.
“Finally our engineer (now Public Works Director), Jason Autrey, readjusted the road,” he said.
At present, the county is constructing a bridge over a stream that flows across Okaloosa Lane, according to county engineer Scott Bitterman. When that work is completed, likely by the end of the year, the paving will commence.
“We’re in the process of taking bids to pave the right of way,” Bitterman said. “We will start to pave early 2018, as soon as the bridge is done, basically.”
Bitterman acknowledged that one property owner on Okaloosa Lane did decline to sell right of way to the county; the planning done to move the road will cause a portion of Okaloosa Lane not to have sidewalk when the paving is complete.
The sidewalk that will be in place is important for school children, Harris said. Both Riverside Elementary School and Shoal River Middle School are located on Redstone Avenue, close to its intersection with Okaloosa Lane.
Harris said one of the reasons he fought so hard for so long to get Okaloosa Lane paved is that as a dirt road it was prone to washouts. One rainstorm in 2014 that dropped almost 2 feet of rain on Okaloosa County scratched a trench 6 feet deep in the roadway near the stream.
Bitterman confirmed “paving a dirt road clearly helps with washouts and water quality.”
A paved road running north and south, providing connecting routes to State Road 85 and U.S. Highway 90 will obviously improve bus access to the schools, Harris said.
“This project will save the school district thousands of dollars a year,” Harris estimated. “If they have a ribbon cutting or something, I want to be there.”