About 15 years ago, the Florida Department of transportation, along with Walton County Commissioners envisioned a roadway that eases traffic, provides a safer commute and one that would bring jobs. After many debates and years of planning, that day has finally come.
The Florida Department of Transportation Secretary for District 3, stood before the board, Tuesday morning to unveil the recently approved time table for Highway 331.
"It's a wonderful day for Walton County." Commissioner Cecilia Jones says she always hoped this day would come.
"When a hurricane comes, we'll have safe evacuations, a faster evacuation, and a safer road. We've had many fatalities on the road, so it's a great day for Walton County that this is finally going to happen."
The plan calls for an almost $400 million expansion of the roadway, already underway. FDOT plans to put out bids for the bridge and corridor between State Road 20 and I-10 at the same time.
"We advertise it. We give the teams an opportunity to work on their proposals. They make a presentation to the district including a price and then we evaluate that." Secretary Tommy Barfield says.
Construction on the new bridge won't start for another 2 years, but Commissioner Jones says although it seems far off, she's excited the plans are already in place. "It's just going to be a big boost for economic development."
FDOT anticipates the project will create jobs over the next 4 to 5 years. Two lanes will remain open at all times during construction. The whole corridor is expected to be completed by 2017.
The total cost of the new bridge is set for $175 million. Last month citizens decided to fund the county's portion with a half cent sales tax; that tax goes into effect in January and will be in effect until the bridge is paid for.