Pictured above, Dr. Carolynn Zonia speaking at the Alternatives Public Meeting on August 21,2019 at Dune Lakes Elementary School.
With over 4 million visitors to Walton County last year, we have all experienced how tourism affects our traffic and travel times. For over a decade the Commissioners have been studying our traffic issues, and since 2006 have spent over a million dollars just looking at traffic on 30a. The most recent contract, to Atkins Engineering, again looks to carve up Point Washington State Forest and add a new Road.
Atkins study shows that adding an additional N-S connector road thru Point Washington State Forest would not change the traffic on 30a, and it's likely that adding another access point to 30a from US 98 would actually increase traffic on 30a. In the picture below, you can see that the additional road would improve travel time from 30a to Sacred Heart by only 3 minutes.
I believe there is a more cost effective and healthier approach. And this weekend The Seaside Institute provided all the information to support it. My plan would be to maximize efficiency of 30a. Just look at the positive impact of simply placing a traffic light at the intersection of Hwy 395 and 30a. There are many other low cost improvements, with low environmental impacts, which could be implemented and would significantly improve not only our traffic but also our quality of life.
I encourage you to consider this approach for a few key reasons. First, younger generations are not buying cars and driving like my peers. It's expected that in 10 years we will not travel the same way, and won't need these roads. Next, we are a tourist destination precisely because of our parks and forests, which remind visitors of Old Florida, a place that is disappearing with the tremendous growth and development in our State. Failure to protect our special character will negatively impact our tourism industry. Lastly, these improvements can be completed more expeditiously and with much less expense that the tens of millions of dollars that one new road will cost.
In my next blog, I'll speak about specific changes to 30a that would maximize efficiency.