Although none of the $974 million that is coming to Northwest Florida for transportation projects will fund Destin-related work, Councilman Jim Wood says the city should still see an indirect benefit.
"Any time you do work on north and south roads there is always economic benefits of getting people to the coast," he said of work on State Road 123. "There are also hurricane evacuation benefits."
Wood told The Log that anywhere between $970 million and $1.2 billion for transportation projects will be used to fund a variety of projects in the area, such as widening projects for State Roads 123 and 87, construction of a new three-mile bridge between Gulf Breeze and Pensacola, and work on the Hwy. 29 interchange.
The three-mile bridge project will eat up a majority of the available funds, with more than $600 million dedicated to the project that will be publicly funded and will not require tolls.
As the Chairman of the Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization, Wood told The Log that the SR 123 project was the TPO's "No. 1 priority."
"Now that funding has been identified, we can either move other projects up on our list or plug something new in its place," he said.
Ideally, Wood said there are roads in Crestview that need some work, but he would also like to see the Beach Drive to Benning Drive Connector move up the list. While there is currently some money available for design work, Wood said there is no construction money to be had at the moment.
The Beach to Benning Connector project has close to a $7 million price tag for a quarter of a mile of roadway, Wood said.
Looking at other potential projects in Destin, Wood told The Log that after the Beach to Benning project, he would like to see the city be able to start work in the Azalea Drive corridor, and possibly consider creating some type of grid system between U.S. Hwy. 98 and Airport Road.
"As a Destin city councilman, I try to push my projects where I can, but I like to base my decisions on objective criteria, not politics," Wood said of his dual roles on the city council and TPO. "I like to be able to look at the numbers and the data and then make a decision."
And while he will be the first to admit that transportation planning isn't sexy, Wood said it's vital to the overall success of a city, especially one like Destin that faces traffic issues due to the fact that it's basically a "one-road" town.
"It's about the effect you want traffic to have in your community," Wood said. "How you want people to move."
Crews from the Florida Department of Transportation are currently in Destin, working on some re-milling projects, re-painting crosswalks and replacing signs, and conducting a pedestrian study for Hwy. 98 and the Marler Street intersection.