OKALOOSA ISLAND — Next winter, Okaloosa County officials anticipate having pedestrian crosswalks in front of each of the seven beach accesses along Santa Rosa Boulevard.
The estimated $280,000 crosswalks project is in the design phase and will be paid for with county half-cent sales tax revenue.
The beach accesses stand along the 2-mile stretch of Santa Rosa Boulevard between U.S. Highway 98 and Eglin Air Force Base property on Okaloosa Island. Several of the accesses already have a crosswalk.
Each of the planned crosswalks will have signs and include ADA-compliant landings, or ramps, on each end. Braille strips on the ramps will assist people who are visually impaired.
And if enough money is available, button-activated, yellow flashing lights that alert drivers to crossing pedestrians also will be placed at each crosswalk, county Engineer Scott Bitterman said Wednesday.
That type of alert system is found on the Miracle Strip Parkway in downtown Fort Walton Beach.
The County Commission recently approved the crosswalks project, which was recommended by the county Infrastructure Surtax Advisory Committee.
With the committee and commission’s approval, various other upgrades totaling about $2.5 million in half-cent sales tax money later could be made to Santa Rosa Boulevard. They could include drainage improvements and road resurfacing.
In addition, Bitterman said the county has received a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation to pay for the design of a sidewalk that would run along the south, or Gulf, side of Santa Rosa Boulevard west of U.S. 98. Construction hasn’t been funded yet and there is no set timeline for the sidewalk to be built.
In another project, the beautification committee of the Okaloosa Island Leaseholders Association plans to make landscaping improvements to the medians along Santa Rosa Boulevard west of U.S. 98.
Crepe myrtles, wax myrtles and palms will be added to the medians, most of which are sparsely landscaped.
“We’re trying to get this done this summer,” Leaseholders Association President Dave Hancock said. “It’s not going to cost that much money: A couple of hundred bucks per tree.”
The association has funding for the new landscaping, which would be maintained by the county, Hancock said.
He praised the county for working with the Leaseholders Association and for making progress on the crosswalks project.
“We’ve pushed them to do that since they did all of those improvements to the access ways,” he said of the recent upgrades to to beach access Nos. 4, 5 and 6.
The county-led work included construction of elevated boardwalks and pavilions, permanent restrooms, paved parking lots, new stormwater systems and landscaping. Those upgrades were paid for with a little more than $1.7 million in county bed tax money.