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Okaloosa County moves ahead with Okaloosa Island Santa Rosa Boulevard facelift

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

SHALIMAR — A design firm that has an office in Miramar Beach will continue to help Okaloosa County officials determine what type of upgrades should be made to Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island.

The four-lane, approximately 2-mile-long road extends past seven county-owned public beach accessways between U.S. Highway 98 and an Eglin Air Force Base gate.

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On Tuesday, the County Commission unanimously approved paying $100,000 in local option half-cent sales tax money to Richardson, Texas-based Halff Associates Inc. to provide conceptual design drawings for various Santa Rosa Boulevard upgrades.

Okaloosa County officials are considering a number of upgrades to Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island.

The possible upgrades include additional parking spots and sidewalks, drainage and landscaping improvements, as well as potential traffic lane reconfigurations.

“The county must find the right mix” of improvements, county Public Works Director Jason Autrey told the commission Tuesday. “I would be foolish to say we will come up with a vision that satisfies everyone.”

Last August, Halff Associates created four design concepts for Santa Rosa Boulevard improvements in the form of a limited roadway typical plan view and cross-sections for display at a town hall meeting. It was hosted by Commission Chairwoman Carolyn Ketchel, who represents District 2, which includes Okaloosa Island.

More:Okaloosa County announces plans to upgrade Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island

Santa Rosa Boulevard Concepts

  • Concept A: 5-foot-wide meandering sidewalk on the south side of the road; improved landscaping, crosswalks and drainage
  • Concept B: Eastbound traffic lanes reduced to one lane; 12-foot-wide multi-use path on south side of road; improved landscaping, crosswalks and drainage
  • Concept C: Conversion to a two-lane divided road; construction of at least one roundabout; 12-foot-wide multi-use path on south side of road; pocket parks with seating areas on north side of road; enhanced landscaping, crosswalks and drainage
  • Concept D: Conversion of westbound lanes into a two-way undivided road; parking spots, 12-foot-wide multi-use path, and pocket parks with seating areas on south side of road; enhanced landscaping, crosswalks and drainage.
Okaloosa County has announced plans to upgrade Santa Rosa Boulevard to alleviate traffic problems.

County officials now need conceptual design drawings prepared by Halff Associates for the full length of the proposed project to present for recommendation from the Infrastructure Surtax Advisory Committee and selection by the commission, according to Autrey.

He said the county does not have a time limit on the newly-approved design services that will be provided by Halff Associates. A construction time frame and project cost will depend on what upgrades the commission ultimately approves.

County officials plan to pay for the construction with half-cent sales tax revenue, county bed-tax money and Florida Department of Transportation funds.

When the project is eventually completed, people “could see something very different” when it comes to upgrades made to the west end of Santa Rosa Boulevard near El Matador Condominiums compared to improvements made near the busier east end by U.S. 98, Autrey said.

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He said the overall improved boulevard would tie in with the new Brooks Bridge, which the FDOT plans to start building about 2023.

County officials noted that many people who viewed the Santa Rosa Boulevard design concepts at last summer’s town hall meeting favored keeping the road four lanes but wanted to see stormwater upgrades implemented.

Ketchel said during Tuesday's meeting that she loves the idea of adding a 12-foot-wide multi-use path to the corridor and supports keeping the boulevard four lanes.

“I think some of the upgrades will improve property values” to this part of the island, Ketchel said.

View looking west down Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island. Changes are being contemplated for the road that could include on-street parking and roundabouts.

She also said that while there is a need for more public parking along the street, some residents do not want on-street parking added.

In the end, “The public might not get 100% of what they want, but they will get the majority of what they want,” said District 3 Commissioner Nathan Boyles, whose district includes a part of Crestview.

He noted that whatever improvements are chosen will affect many residents, not just those who live next to the beach.

Santa Rosa Boulevard is “a countywide asset,” Boyles said. “This is where folks in my district go to the beach. These are our public beaches.”