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Walton nears public transportation system

Nathan Cobb
nathan@waltonsun.com
Walton Sun
DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — A public transportation system running between the north and south ends of Walton County is right around the corner.
Recently, more than $650,000 was collected by the county from the Florida Department of Transportation to fund the project this year. It is expected to begin within the next few months, said Mac Carpenter, Walton’s planning director.
Carpenter said the four buses that will be used are still being built. Each will be handicap accessible and feature 28 seats, bike racks and Wi-Fi. He expected them to be complete in early February.
“Lots of folks are interested in when it will start,” he said. “We’re obligated to start service under the grant agreement (with FDOT) within 90 days of bus delivery.”
However, Carpenter hoped for operations to begin sooner than that.
For Commissioner Danny Glidewell, a public transportation system could be the solution to the ever-present need to expand local roads. He added that it’s been in the works for a “long time.”
“This is one of our most important projects in the next 5-10 years,” he wrote in an email. “Our north citizens who work in the south can save a substantial amount of money using this new system, while citizens who live in the south will benefit from reduced vehicle traffic. ... Hopefully, we can develop this system into a county-wide system that will serve the infrastructure needs of residents and visitors alike.”
A request for proposals to find a company to operate the buses closes Jan. 30.
“Finding the right operator for a transit system ... is a critical component for success,” Carpenter said.
He hoped for the county to quickly weed through the applicants to get the transportation system going as soon as possible.
“We are looking forward to this project, which helps bring people closer to where the jobs are until we can bring the jobs closer to where the people are,” Carpenter said.