As the number of tourists coming to South Walton continues to climb, and more and more of them choose to make this their home, South Walton is dealing with infrastructure that most agree is inadequate to deal with the numbers.
In an effort to peel back the layers on the infrastructure topic in South Walton, we asked some local residents for their views on the county's current infrastructure.
Is it adequate?
Which areas are the worst?
Zach Ferrall lives on the east end of 30A.
"We all know that traffic is horrendous during the tourist season. It doesn't take a long tour of the south county to realize that construction is booming," he said. "If the traffic is already bad, and more people are coming, how do we fit them onto the roads?
"With the 331 bridge being completed soon (or, not soon enough!) the toll bridge will be a less favorable option for people looking to access the South Walton region. Again, where will those extra cars go? Highway 98 has a very clear limit for the amount of lanes that can be added. Could there be an elevated structure similar to what is available in Miami, Houston, or Atlanta? How would we acquire funding when on paper we are a small community? The reality is that we may be a small community but everyone wants to come by and see us; and I don't blame them. It's great here. Perhaps a commuter train between Destin and Panama City Beach would relieve some of the load. For those of us who live and work in the communities along 98, having a few select stops could bring some order to frenzy. Again, though, where do you put that? And, finally, whatever the solution is, it can't be air dropped in, so, we'll have to suffer through the implementation phase."
Mona Howard, who lives off County Road 393, said the lack of sidewalks was a concern.
"I see people walking up and down 393 every single day — north and south of 98 — it is not only a dangerous situation, but "We are a beach community, and there's no way to get there by foot or bike without taking your life into your hands."
Howard told The Sun the combination of walkers, runners, mothers pushing strollers, runners trying to get to the beach, people walking to the convenience store, and such is wonderful for tourists who come to 30A, but what about those who actually live here?
"Our children should be a priority. We need more indoor/outdoor sports facilities for them. Butler Elementary alone has 1,050 students. How about another park?
In addition to sidewalks, Howard also voiced concern about medians. She said they are embarrassing.
"Why can't we beautify our medians?" she said. "Take a look at the Grand Boulevard area in Miramar Beach — gorgeous landscaped medians — then you come into Santa Rosa Beach and it all goes downhill."
Given the concern voiced by residents, The Sun asked the county commissioners what plans they have in place to upgrade existing infrastructure; if Walton County's existing infrastructure can handle the current demand of locals and tourists; and what projects are in the pipeline.
Whether the county's existing infrastructure can handle the current demand of locals and tourists is a very subjective question, and the answer would be different depending on who you ask, said Louis Svehla, public information manager for Walton County Commissioners.
Svehla said the county has, does, and will continue to discuss and address infrastructure needs, and there are a good many projects in the pipeline, but that does not mean they will all get done, or get done in any order, he said.
"Every project starts and stops somewhere and at different points," said Svehla. "Project timelines often change due to circumstances. Those circumstances can include funding, weather, or other immediate needs that may come about.
"The current list of projects will continue to move through the process with the BCC and will move forward as the board decides. In addition, other projects will certainly be placed on the list, and depending on circumstance, may move more quickly through the process as needs dictate."
Here is a list of projects currently on the Public Works Projects list, per Svehla:
— Allen Loop Road drainage improvements (design funded in current budget year)
— Big Redfish Lake drainage improvement project (awaiting award of HMGP grant; construction tentatively scheduled for fall of 2016.)
— Brown Street drainage improvement project (construction funded in current budget year)
— Cabbage Rose Lane drainage improvement (construction funded in current budget year)
— County Road 30A from CR 395 to CR 283 resurfacing (construction funded FY 15/16; project scheduled for fall of 2016.)
— County Road 30A traffic study update (scope of work has been approved and Atkins Engineering is underway with study; results expected late summer 2016)
— County Road 393 to Helen McCall Park Connector Road (design funded in current budget year)
— County Road 395N from U.S. 98 to bayou, widening, reconstruction, and addition of multi-use paths (design funded in current budget year.)
— County Roads 395 and 30A intersection improvement (ROW agreement and ROW abandonment process underway) design and construction to be scheduled in association with agreements and abandonments being completed.
— Driftwood Road resurfacing (from U.S. Highway 98 to Scenic Gulf Drive; project budgeted in current year; project scheduled for spring 2016)
— East Hewett road drainage improvements (construction funded in current budget year)
— East Point Washington Road realignment and paving (design funded in current budget year)
— Golf Club Drive drainage improvements (design funded in current budget year)
— Holiday Road south sidewalk/multi-use path (design funded in current budget year)
— Lakewood Drive drainage improvement project (construction funded in current budget year)
— Mack Bayou Road drainage improvements (design funded in current budget year)
— Sandal Beach Townhomes storm water improvements (construction funded in current budget year)
— Seagrove storm water improvement project (design funded in current budget year)
— Somerset Bridge sidewalk and pedestrian improvements (construction funded in current budget year)
— South Walton Sports Complex (design funded and currently underway; construction scheduled for summer 2016)
— Walton Way drainage improvement project (construction funded in current budget year)
— Western Lake basin conveyance improvements (design funded in current budget year)
— Western Lake pedestrian bridge and multi-use path (pedestrian bridge currently funded; construction scheduled for fall of 2016)
For a complete list of upcoming and current projects visit http://www.co.walton.fl.us/index.aspx?NID=1048 as the list is ever changing.