After three years of discussions, Airport Road will be getting some major improvements with the goal of making it a safer roadway.

After listening to four different engineering firms present their project proposals, the Destin City Council awarded the contract for the improvements to Airport Road to Volkert Inc. by a 5-1 vote.

Since 2017, the City Council has had discussions regarding the safety of Airport Road. At a January 2017 meeting, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office stated that at least 18 accidents had occurred at the curve between the intersections of Mattie Kelly Boulevard and Airport Road and Quail Circle and Airport Road in 2016.

An Airport Road Safety Audit was also conducted in 2016 by Kimley-Horn, a roadway consulting firm contracted by the Florida Department of Transportation to analyze the safety of Airport Road. The safety audit found that a high number of accidents occurred when it was raining or shortly after and that a high-friction treatment would help prevent those kinds of accidents.

A high-friction surface treatment is composed of extremely hard, polish and abrasive resistant aggregate bonded to the existing pavement, according to Volkert Project Manager Mike Warnke. It helps motorists maintain control of their vehicle in dry and wet conditions.

Volkert Inc. is a 95-year-old engineering consultant firm based out of Mobile. Warnke stated that the firm has a pre-established relationship with the DOT for emergency work and has experience with high-friction surface treatment.

During his presentation to the City Council earlier this month, Warnke stated that updating the signage and adding a high-friction surface treatment to the road could significantly reduce the number of crashes.

“Proper chevron signs have shown a reduction of nighttime crashes by 25 percent,” he said as he quoted data from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. “High-friction surface treatment can reduce wet pavement crashes by 75 percent and the total number of crashes are reduced by 32 percent.”

Some other improvements suggested included updated signage and pavement markings, a raised curb, a paved or grass shoulder, speed limit signs and lighting.

The city received an FDOT Local Agency Program reimbursable grant to cover the costs of improvements and safety upgrades to the curve of the road. According to FDOT spokesman Ian Satter, $679,000 has been set aside for the improvements to be completed in 2020.

Acting Public Service Director Tim Pietenpol said that the city hopes to have the designs for the project in July and start construction in the early fall.