BUZ LIVINGSTON: Road rage? We can’t afford to lose the A

30a road

Federal emergency management officials arrived in Walton County on Monday to begin assessing damages from last month’s flooding. The county sustained at least $11 million in damages to roads and infrastructure in July alone, and the federal government has agreed to provide funds for the repairs. County leaders do not know when the road might reopen. They are discussing the possibility of putting a bridge in over the lake instead of replacing the failed culvert.

Devon Ravine | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 05:03 PM.

After the rain stopped a walk to the beach seemed like a good idea. I’m glad we got the closets cleaned out, but it was time for a break. We were dangerously approaching reorganization jihad; being a recovering slob I am an infidel. Before we could get to the 83 walkover, whoa Nelly, Big Redfish Lake was washing over 30A. 

Conventional wisdom blames a clogged culvert and while there is little doubt inadequate maintenance led to this disaster, losing 30A is merely a symptom of a far more insidious illness. Disaster is no hyperbole, to paraphrase Vice President Biden; this is a big deal.

Until we repair the road, retail businesses in my neighborhood will lose customers and sales. The last big hurrah before Thanksgiving and Christmas, Labor Day, will be diminished. Everyone will pay more in time and extra gas negotiating the added commute. The detour increases the traffic load on the already dangerous 83/98 intersection.

At one time in my life I lived down three miles of bad dirt road so I understand when a county commissioner bemoans road conditions in their district. But the 28.5 miles of County Road 30A in South Walton generates millions and it cannot go down. Too little revenue generated by the South Walton ATM stays in South Walton. We should nurture, not short shrift, a stretch of highway producing so much money.

Losing the A at Big Redfish Lake shows what happens when you overburden an underfunded, aging infrastructure. Walton County along with the rest of America continues to ignore growing infrastructure needs. Compounding the situation locally was the real estate crash. The aphorism “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is cute, but foolishly dangerous when it comes to infrastructure.

Budget “scrubs” ignore the reality we have just as many roads as we had in 2005 but we are spending less on them and we have less staff to maintain them.  

Since cities, counties, fire and school districts rely heavily on real estate taxes, road maintenance falls on property owners. Maybe we should think outside the box. Sales taxes disproportionally affect lower income families, but the South Walton sales tax base includes our visiting friends. Georgia routinely uses voter-approved, special purpose sales taxes limited to specific infrastructure needs, not general revenue. Sure it’s not perfect but it beats raising property taxes.

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