CRA Board talks transit stops

Matt Algarin

While city leaders agree that improvements are needed at the Marler Street parking lot, some could do without the proposed transit stop that would sit beside it.

“We are trying to get the traffic off of 98, so if we make the transit stop there, the bus slows down and pulls and the bus is going to slow down traffic to pull out,”Councilman Jim Bagby said. “I’m just trying to figure out why we are doing this.”

Although city leaders were quick to work their way through proposed parking lot improvements during a recent Community Redevelopment Board meeting, they took their time as they debated the merits of the proposed transit stop that would tie into the existing multi modal plan.

The city’s multi modal plan encourages a mix of land uses; a variety of transportation options; and promotes pedestrian-friendly site and building designs.

Developments located in the city’s multi modal transportation district are required to contribute to the bicycle, pedestrian and transit routes in order to reduce vehicle trips.

Partnering with Okaloosa County Transit, the city currently has three transit routes throughout Destin that make almost 50 stops; one of which reaches into Walton County as it drops off passengers at Silver Sands Premium Outlets.

Looking at the plans, Babgy said there isn’t a need for another transit stop, since the city already has one situated on Mountain Drive, just north of the parking lot on Marler Street.

But Community Development Director Ken Gallander disagrees. He said the key is to have the transit stops located on the main roadway.

“We have a plan that identifies stops on highway 98,” he said. “We have never been given the direction to take those off of highway 98.”

But, that could change based on the night’s discussions, Sandy Trammell said.

“I think there is an underlying concern that the county wants to put all the transit stops on highway 98; we do not,” she said. “What I’m hearing people say is we might want to re-look at the transit issue.”

Councilman Larry Williges said he doesn’t mind the additional stop, since it would benefit those who aren’t as mobile as others.“I think it’s a nice gesture for people who have mobility issues,” he said. “I see nothing wrong with having one on either end.”

As a “transit supporter,” Councilman Jim Wood said the city shouldn’t waste its time debating transit stops since they already have a plan in place.

“The bigger concern I have is that we have a multi modal plan that has a number of transit stops and we’re nitpicking where transit stops are when they are in our approved plan,” he said. “If we have an approved plan, why are we not executing the plan yet?”

While city leaders unanimously agreed to award the Marler Street project to Gulf Coast Utility Contractors, LLC, they will finalize the contract on the $399,165,000 project during their Dec. 17 meeting. The project is expected to get under way by January.

Improvements to the Marler Street parking lot would include paving, striping, lighting, landscaping and irrigation improvements, and pedestrian improvements.

When construction begins on the parking lot, the pull through for the proposed transit stop will be constructed, although the actually stop itself will be built at a later point in time. Plans also call for another transit stop to be built at the Community Center as well.