OKALOOSA COUNTY – County officials have hired a firm to provide a range of initial pre-construction services for a proposed multi-use path that would cross Okaloosa Island between Brooks Bridge and Marler Bridge.

The roughly 5-mile-long path could run along the north side of U.S. Highway 98 and be used by walkers, joggers and bicyclists.

Because the project would utilize Florida Department of Transportation right-of-way and cross over Eglin Air Force Base property, the county will need approval from FDOT and the Air Force to build the path. There is no set timeline for the overall project, county Public Works Director Jason Autrey said Friday.

The Pensacola office of HDR Engineering Inc. will provide survey work and preliminary engineering and environmental services for the project. County officials will use bed tax revenue to pay the $102,169 cost of the firm’s work.

“It’s a very intricate process, with multiple property owners, including the Air Force, involved,” Autrey said of the overall project.

All of the undeveloped property along U.S. 98 between Beasley Park and the Marler Bridge is federal property, he said.

According to county information, the proposed multi-use path could connect with a pedestrian pathway on the new Brooks Bridge and with an existing bike path under Marler Bridge. Construction of the new Brooks Bridge might begin in about 2021.

However, “There’s a long way to go to determine where exactly that (possible multi-use) path would be placed,” Autrey said. “It would certainly be away from the roadway. But there are a lot of details to be determined. Before we design the project, we want to make sure it’s a viable project.”

Last summer, the County Commission approved a request from the Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association to have the county fund the initial pre-construction services needed for the path. Future estimated project costs include about $70,000 for final design and construction plans and about $1 million for the path’s construction.

Mike Morris, manager of Bob’s Bicycles in downtown Fort Walton Beach, said the potential path would be good for the area. The path would probably benefit casual bicyclists, such as those who ride beach cruiser comfort bikes, rather than faster road cyclists, he said.

But, “If the new bridge happens, with a bike path all the way to Destin, I think that would be great,” Morris said. “The more they can do to get people walking and biking, the better.”