County approves sidewalk work by Destin, land purchase for Crestview bypass

CRESTVIEW — The use of local option half-cent sales tax money for sidewalk upgrades in Destin and for the first purchase of land needed for the southwest Crestview bypass recently received the Okaloosa County Commission’s approval.

In Destin, a total of $375,000 in sales tax money will be spent to connect unattached sections of sidewalk along the 2-mile county portion of Commons Drive between the Indian Bayou Trail and Matthew Boulevard roundabouts.

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During the past several years, Commons Drive has seen significant growth with the development of three apartment complexes, stores and the expansion of the Mattie Kelly Arts Center amphitheater, according to county Public Works Director Jason Autrey.

Along with that growth, the rate of conflicts between pedestrians/bicyclists and vehicular traffic is on the rise, in part to the gaps in sidewalk connections, Autrey said in an agenda request for last Tuesday’s commission meeting.

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He said while recently developed apartment complexes in the Destin city limits were required to install sidewalks as a condition of their development, older projects and those built outside the city’s boundaries were not.

The approved sidewalk improvements "will be much appreciated in my district," said District 5 Commissioner Kelly Windes, who represents the Destin area.

The sidewalk upgrades soon will enter the design stage, and construction should be completed by this time next year, according to Autrey.

The commission last week also approved spending $342,500 in half-cent sales tax money to buy a 1.7-acre parcel that will provide right-of-way for the southwest Crestview bypass.

The parcel, southwest of U.S. Highway 90 and Enzor Road, is being purchased from Daniel and Brenda Fleming. The closing is expected to occur within the next 30 days.

The bypass, which is expected to ease traffic congestion in and near Crestview, will include a wider PJ Adams Parkway, an Interstate 10 interchange east of Antioch Road, a new road from the interchange to north of U.S. 90 and a new east-west road between Arena Road and Physicians Drive.

The construction portion of most of the overall bypass project is expected to be under contract by the end of this year and could be completed within five years.

"A big piece of (the bypass project) is acquiring right-of-way, because we’re going through virgin territory almost entirely from Interstate 10 north to U.S. 90," Autrey told the commission. The 1.7-acre parcel "is the first parcel that we have reached an agreement with the property owner to acquire the necessary right-of-way to allow for the construction."

Overall, the county anticipates buying about 20 acres to provide right-of-way for the north-south part of the bypass project.

While county officials have earmarked about $19 million worth of county and city of Crestview half-cent sales tax money for the land purchases, Autrey thinks the total amount spent will be less than the budgeted figure.

"The one we just bought is probably one of our more expensive parcels" because of its location next to a commercial roadway, he said Monday.

Besides the purchased parcels, the county will receive via a land exchange about 60 acres from the city of Crestview that will provide right-of-way for the north-south and east-west parts of the bypass project.

Construction of the overall project is expected to cost almost $200 million.

It will be paid for with money from Triumph Gulf Coast, the Florida Department of Transportation and local sources, including half-cent sales tax revenue from the county and Crestview.