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Kurt Lischka

Admin
Staff member
Oct 15, 2004
12,457,823
4,585
SoWal
mooncreek.com
as reported on WZEP AM 1460

WC BCC and U.S. 331

Since the early 1970’s the people in Walton County have been asking for help in paving the only complete north to south highway, U.S. 331. With budget changes, gone are the days of the government paying for all of a project. From the national level, the trend is for more and more toll roads as well as public private partnerships. In a special meeting, the Walton Commissioners were updated on the efforts to widen U.S. 331. The Commissioners had previously appointed TDC Director Dawn Moliterno as the point person for the lobbying efforts to get the highway wider.

Moliterno said the one thing about the many people working on the widening is they all agree the highway needs the extra lanes. She noted FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad and District 3 Secretary Tommy Barfield were present at the meeting. She also pointed out Mayor Carpenter from DeFuniak Springs and Kitty Whitney with the Chamber and Scarlett Phaneuf with the EDA, all present, as some of those helping.

Moliterno said the TDC asked the question that, “If the traffic worsens, then how likely would you be to choose another destination?” Over 60% said they would be likely to choose somewhere else. Moliterno said this is significant to the economic engine of the area. She also talked about concerns with evacuation times, the recent trip to D.C., and the work of our local federal representatives.

FDOT District 3 Secretary Barfield talked about the completed section south of the bridge and the plans for the section from north of the bridge to Highway 20. This is funded for $26 million and should start soon. They are looking at making the section of the Freeport bypass four lanes and just north of that the county project is starting to be worked on. The next section will go to Edgewood Circle. The final two sections are north of Woodlawn to I-10 and the Clyde Wells Bridge.

Barfield said they plan to build a new bridge to parallel the current one through the use of a toll. The $2 toll would generate $75 million. They would sell bonds to pay for the bridge. The toll would not increase over time and once the $75 million was retired, the toll would come off the bridge. The toll would be for the new southbound bridge only, not the current bridge. They would work with the Turnpike Enterprise. The prediction is to have the bonds paid off in 30 years.

Commissioner Cecilia Jones said a toll frightens her because of the workers who live north of the bay and the current economy. She said two dollars might not seem like much, but can be. Jones asked if they could research other options. Barfield said he would be willing to look at other options.




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As the Walton Commissioners met in special session to discuss Highway 331, State Department of Transportation Secretary Prasad said this was the second time of the month he has driven 331. He told the commissioners 331 is on their radar. He said Florida is on track to create jobs and there are people ready to invest, but they want to see where to invest. He asked district secretaries for projects that would “move the needle and start the investments”. He said 331 is one of the game changers. He also said the planned toll is because of the decline in the gas tax. He said that every year they are facing declining revenues due to people not driving less, but driving vehicles with greater gas mileage, or using hybrid and electric cars.

Prasad also talked about the federal highway bill with less money coming in. He said the House has a 6-year bill they need for more stability and the Senate has a 2-year bill. A key component is to encourage states to add tolling.

He said another key is the commitment the county and state are making. Prasad said this is a once in a lifetime opportunity due to the hunger of the construction industry. He told the commissioners, “If we can figure out a way to keep this on track, this is the time.” He said he knows tolls are always a sensitive topic, but they need to go ahead and deliver the project. He said he and Barfield want to get the highway to four lanes all the way to I-10, and they want to do this in a few years, not long term. He said Walton needs to say they are ready for people to invest.

Dawn Moliterno said Walton has to either find a way to come up with the local match or there has to be tolls in order for the project to get moving. She pointed out that if the project is not done in Walton, then the money will go to another project. She said they have to identify funding sources and there is a matter of timing. Walton Finance Director Bill Imfeld said the county can not just write a check, they have to look at funding. Options include an additional one cent sales tax. A large percentage of the sales come from tourists and generates about $12 million a year. This would take a public vote. This tax would sunset after a time and be partially paid for by people from out of Walton.

Moliterno recommended the commissioners create a task force to work in the sunshine with an appointee by each commissioner. The task force would come up with a recommendation and bring it back to the commissioners. She also said, if they recommend a referendum, then they need a bond advisor. Commissioners approved both recommendations.

Nothing is set and the task force could return with a recommendation of using the toll or finding a way, such as an additional one cent sales tax to pay for the county’s match. There will be at least one public meeting to gather input.
 

miznotebook

Beach Fanatic
Jul 8, 2009
925
556
Stone's throw from Inlet Bch
If I am understanding the toll bridge proposal correctly, it would be a second parallel bridge that would be southbound, and the present bridge would be the northbound bridge. Wouldn't this leave the existing causeways intact, then?
For years one of the county's excuses for not getting a new bridge built was the supposed insistence of DEP to remove the causeways to improve water flow through the bay. This runs up the cost considerably, but they managed it okay when they rebuilt the bridge over St Andrews Bay.
Since the bay ecosystem was impacted by the oil spill (denials notwithstanding) it seems to me that we have even more of a reason to ask BP to pony up for a whole new bridge from shore to shore with no causeways.

NDY, I was also thinking that that argument could be made. Not sure it would be successful, though.
 

UofL

Beach Fanatic
Jan 21, 2005
628
215
Louisville KY
We travel to Pensacola occassionally; they have a toll bridge. We pay it which is once every two years or so:) I would think that daily travelers would have a yearly pass.
In Louisville, they are discussing tolls on a new bridge(s) as much as $8. Whew!
I remember as a little girl, long before I65 was finished, just south of Louisville, we paid a toll.
It would be nice to have a 4 lane route to 30A from 65. That's why we sometimes take longer, alternate routes - we're moving.
Ellen
 

Bob Wells

Beach Fanatic
Jul 25, 2008
3,359
1,332
I want to know who the appointees are and who they are affiliated with, it already concerns me that Dawn indicates that tourist will go someplace else if traffic gets worse, I hear toll, I would rather pay the 1 cent sales tax so that it is payed off earlier and the tax sunset rather than a toll which may or may not sunset after 30 years due to the change in the political climate or economy.
I volunteer to sit on that board if anyone will appoint me and everyone know exactly where I stand and why I stand for it.
 

Andy A

Beach Fanatic
Feb 28, 2007
4,403
1,730
Blue Mountain Beach
I want to know who the appointees are and who they are affiliated with, it already concerns me that Dawn indicates that tourist will go someplace else if traffic gets worse, I hear toll, I would rather pay the 1 cent sales tax so that it is payed off earlier and the tax sunset rather than a toll which may or may not sunset after 30 years due to the change in the political climate or economy.
I volunteer to sit on that board if anyone will appoint me and everyone know exactly where I stand and why I stand for it.

I am definitely with you on this one! I, too, will volunteer to sit on the board. The problem with tolls is they never end. Once the principal is paid off, we have to use the toll for maintenance. Also, tolls can be increased. The approximate cost to workers living north is approximately $30 to $45 a month. To some that may not be much but to many it is significant. I recently took a trip to NH and going through just a corner of NY it cost me $13 in tolls. The natives have learned to use the "back roads" and ignore the toll roads. You can't do that with 331. Let all pay for the bridge with the 1 cent sales tax, which can be recinded once the project is paid for.
 

BeachSteelers

Beach Fanatic
Feb 18, 2006
473
48
Seagrove
With an avg of 380,000,000 millions gallons of gas sold in 2010(DOT numbers) at $.18 cents Fed TAX and another $.22 cents on avg per state per gallon. At least $.40 per gallon is taxes for roads and bridges and repairs. This isn't counting diesel, jet or other liquid fuels that are taxed. Say about $152 MILLION a day or nearly $56 billion/year collected gas taxes by my quick estimates. Similar to the USPS who at $.44 cents per 185 BILLION pieces of mail a year is about $82 billion a year. Folks I'd say an AUDIT is in order before any new taxes or tolls. Really the Post Service is 5-10 billion in the hole each year with 82 plus billion in revenue. And oh by the way $886 Billion in Stimulus was supposed to be for road projects not bailouts of public servants pension funds. Just as another $700 Billion for TARP that only fattened Wall St's pants pockets not fixing foreclosures. I'd say it'd take a couple years of gas sold in Walton County to collect most of the remaining moneys need for the 331 bridge. But sadly what's collected must be shipped off to Tallahassee or DC since they obviously know how better to spend money they collect. But again sadly without any Budgets as guidelines for spending, who's to really say where or how the money is spent. Kind of like how they sign a payroll tax cut and push off figuring out how to pay for it until 10 years down the road. They are master magicians. You can't even see your money disappear!
 

Kurt Lischka

Admin
Staff member
Oct 15, 2004
12,457,823
4,585
SoWal
mooncreek.com
331 Bridge Public Meeting 1/11/12 at 4PM

http://defuniakherald.com/?p=4656

By DOTTY NIST


The panel set up to evaluate options for funding the $75 million local match that is being required for the four laning of the U.S. 331 Choctawhatchee Bay bridge is scheduled to hold its first meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 5 at the South Walton Tourist Development Council office.

The meeting is open to the public.


Dawn Moliterno, South Walton Tourist Development Council executive director and Walton County’s point person for the U.S. 331 widening effort, commented that the task force has been charged with a very narrow job that must be accomplished in a very short amount of time. This is because their recommendation to county commissioners will be due for presentation at the last Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting in January. That meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Jan. 24 at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.


The task force will be looking at two funding options. One would be a $2 toll on the new southbound bridge span on which the state anticipates construction will begin in 2013. The other option would be an 1-percent increase by Walton County in its sales tax. It has been estimated that the proposed toll would continue for a 30-year period. If the sales tax increase is the funding method selected, it has been estimated that bonds that would be sold to initially fund the local match would be paid off in approximately 11 years.


The state Department of Transportation has communicated to Walton County that the over $100 million in federal funding that would be made available to fund the bridge expansion depends on the local match being provided.


Moliterno said Walton County Finance Director William Imfeld would be present at the Jan. 5 task force meeting to provide information to the members.


Task force members include: Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson; Kitty Whitney, Walton Area Chamber of Commerce director; Bonnie McQuiston of the Walton County Taxpayers Association; Wayne Bodie of Florida Transformer; and Lee Grantham of CHELCO.



Moliterno said a 4 p.m. Jan. 11 public workshop would be held at the South Walton Courthouse Annex specifically to take public comments and suggestions on the funding options. She added that it would be up to the task force to decide whether to hold additional meetings prior to their recommendations being presented to county commissioners on Jan. 24.
 
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