District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander: “It’s not getting any better. We don’t have roads for all the people who move down here.”
DEBORAH WHEELER @WaltonSunDeb
SANTA ROSA BEACH — Walton County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to study ways to relieve traffic on County Highway 30A.
According to officials, the Florida Department of Transportation project development and environment study will attempt to measure social, economic and environmental impacts that may come with with a traffic improvement project affecting 30A, which runs through popular tourist areas in South Walton County.
“In general, they want to look at any and all options that would be the least impactful to the environment,” said Public Information Manager Louis Svehla.
The vote came in the wake of an update by Chance Powell of the 30A traffic study that was initiated to look at traffic concerns on 30A, most recently at the intersection of County Road 395/30A.
Several alternate north-south routes and an east-west route were explored that would help get drivers off 30A and back out to U.S. Highway 98.
A study by Atkins Engineering identified two routes that would provide maximum benefit.
Alternative 4 is one of those that would be a new east-west roadway, connecting CR 395 to 30A east of Eastern Lake Road. The benefits of this route would be improved access to 395, improved emergency services response times, and has the least amount of environmental impacts.
Alternative 1 would be a new north-south road, east of Seagrove and connecting 30A and U.S. 98. Its benefits would be improved access to 98 and points of interest such as the Walton County Sports Complex, improved emergency services response times, and improved access for hurricane evacuation.
Atkins recommended further evaluation of alternatives 1 and 4 — but considered Alternative 4 as the most viable.
Alternative 4 would provide relief to the CR395 intersection and improved emergency services access. It would also have the smallest impact to state forest lands and connect existing street networks. The cons of the proposal were less benefit to hurricane evacuation, and wetland and flood plain crossings.
Alternative 1 would provide traffic relief to the Seaside-Seagrove area, improved hurricane evacuation, and better emergency services access. However, the route would stray into Point Washington State Forest – which is the main reason why Atkins recommended Alternative 4.
“State forests are a natural resource that DEP protects,” said John Fielding of Atkins. “The state demands that you analyze alternative lands. Alternate 4 fits within the guidelines, although Alternate 1 follows power lines as much as possible. The next step is an environmental study.”
District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander noted that commissioners have been working on the problem since before she was elected to the board in 2006 — and had been discussing it since 2003.
“It’s not getting any better. We don’t have roads for all the people who move down here. We are not going to make everybody happy,” Comander said. “The road next to the power lines is the only plausible solution. It is a direct route. It is the obvious. I studied this for a very long time. The power lines are already there. It can be made a road that no one can veer off into state lands.”
Fielding said his goal was to look at the least impactful solution, admitting that Atkins focused on Alternate 4 and did not look at Alternate 1 that much for that reason.
District 5 Commissioner Tony Anderson and District 2 Commissioner Cecilia Jones stated they want to consider more options.