Lakeshore Drive closing cancelled



BLUEWATER BAY — The Okaloosa County Public Works Department has decided against closing Lakeshore Drive at White Point Road this Saturday as originally planned.

Department head Jason Autry told Okaloosa County commissioners of the decision at their meeting Tuesday. He said it was made after evaluating traffic and speaking with officials at the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s been determined that traffic flow through the White Point Road area will not be heavy enough for the county to get an accurate measure of results of the updated traffic pattern,” an email from county spokesman Rob Brown said.

By closing Lakeshore Drive at White Point Road and stationing deputies there, the county would shut down access from Lakeshore Drive to the Mid-Bay Bridge and eliminate the bumper-to-bumper traffic on White Point Road that angers residents there.

The county still intends to close the road Saturday, Aug. 26, and the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend Sept. 2, Brown said. Plans call for the intersection to be shut down between noon and 6 p.m.

“Those ‘last weekends of summer’ should give us a better opportunity to really analyze what impact the pattern will have,” he said.

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Contacted Tuesday at his home on Laura Lane in a subdivision off Lakeshore Drive, Jason Sloan said he really liked the idea of closing off the road entrance.

“I’m darn sure glad they’re going to do it,” he said.

Sloan said traffic coming off White Point Road during the summer creates all kinds of headaches for him and his neighbors.

He said he’s been grilling on his back deck on weekend evenings and has heard horns honking and people shouting.

He buys groceries on Friday and stays home on Saturday, he said, and his wife leaves for work early to keep from getting caught in traffic.

But when discussing the county’s plans to close the road, Sloan admitted he was under the impression that residents would be granted access off White Point Road. A letter sent Aug. 8 to Lakeshore Drive homeowners seems to contradict that.

“The proposed trial change will prevent access to Lakeshore Drive from White Point Road for ALL vehicles,” the letter said, with the “all” capitalized. “This measure will require all traffic wishing to access the Mid-Bay Bridge or Lakeshore Drive to access the bridge from State Road 20.”

Public Works Director Jason Autry confirmed Tuesday, the information found in the letter.

“As of now, the plan is to restrict all access to White Point Road with the exception of Emergency Services vehicles during the duration of the test pattern,” Brown confirmed after speaking to Autry.

If residents aren’t granted access off White Point Road, they’ll still be unable to run into Niceville without sitting in traffic for hours on their return trip, Sloan said.

“I would not be for that,” he said. “If they regulate it where people can get access by showing their driver’s license, I would favor that.”

County Commissioner Kelly Windes, who hosted a town hall meeting July 27 to discuss traffic issues on White Point Road, said he’d only received a single email objecting to closing the White Point/Lakeshore intersection.

“So I guess I can’t be too far off base trying it,” he said.

But Bluewater Bay resident Steve Czonstka called the Saturday closings at this time of year “a solution where there’s no problem.”

“The biggest thing that we are laughing at is why they are doing this now? There’s no traffic now. It’s done. It’s over with. School’s back on,” Lakeshore Drive resident Lonnie Oswalt said. “It’s silly and stupid to me to do it after the crisis is over. They’re going to prove nothing.”


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