SANTA ROSA BEACH — Walton County commissioners will put up $1 million to help establish a safer route for people to cross U.S. Highway 98 near County Road 30A at Inlet Beach.
During Tuesday's commission meeting in Santa Rosa Beach, two sources of $500,000 each were approved to be used to help fund the underpass. One portion will be taken from the Tourist Development Council's fiscal 2020 budget and the other will come from the County Road 30A Proportionate Fair Share Account — an account Walton County spokesman Louis Svehla said is fueled by fees paid by developers who expand across 30A.
Commissioners agreed the underpass will be an important addition to South Walton.
"It's one of those projects that provides a safety mechanism for the public," Vice Chairman Bill Chapman said.
During a recent Florida Department of Transportation meeting, an engineer with Volkert Inc. engineering firm expected the underpass to cost about $4.5 million.
At the same meeting, FDOT spokesman Ian Satter said the department has not approved any funding yet.
Walton commissioners agreed to dip into the 30A Proportionate Fair Share Account to help hurry the underpass into fruition.
"We believe by adding another $500,000 we can move this project at a much faster pace," County Administrator Larry Jones said.
The lighted tunnel will be 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide and run about 8 feet below U.S. 98.
To help ease the chance of the tunnel being a graffiti hot spot, commissioners said they are considering hiring local artists to decorate its interior.