| Northwest Florida Daily News
FORT WALTON BEACH — Construction of the city’s proposed “around the mound” project that would reroute downtown traffic will not take place in conjunction with the state-led construction of the new Brooks Bridge, a state transportation official said Monday.
“They are two separate projects,” Florida Department of Transportation District 3 spokesman Ian Satter said.
Construction of the new bridge is scheduled to start sometime in the state’s budget year of 2022 and could be completed several years later.
More: FDOT presents plans for a new Brooks Bridge
The project design and environmental study for the around the mound project, however, hasn’t begun, Satter said.
“The PD&E could take about 18 months to three years to complete,” which means construction of the bridge and around the mound projects “would not occur at the same time,” he said.
FDOT officials are working on a timeline and identifying possible funding for the PD&E study, which could cost about $2 million. Satter said it isn’t known yet when those tasks would be finalized.
The Fort Walton Beach City Council on Sept. 22 approved a resolution expressing support for the Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization and FDOT to move forward with the study.
According to City Manager Michael Beedie, the resolution states the city is committed to assisting FDOT with a financial match to help pay for the study. Once a match amount is known, staff will prepare a separate item for the council’s consideration, Beedie recently reported to the council.
The around the mound project is listed as the No. 4 priority on the TPO’s five-year transportation work plan, Beedie said recently.
An estimated cost of the design and construction of the possible project, as well as funding sources for those tasks, are not known yet, city spokesman Doug Rainer said Monday.
The overall project, which the council adopted almost three years ago, calls for rerouting U.S. Highway 98/Miracle Strip Parkway traffic north of downtown and the historic Indian Temple Mound.
While retaining the current, two-way traffic flow around the mound, possibly with new portions of roadway, the four-lane U.S. 98 in the heart of downtown would be reduced to two lanes for local traffic only.
As part of that scenario, the downtown part of U.S. 98 would have one westbound and one eastbound lane but would not connect to the new bridge. Drivers still would be able to get to Brooks Street, however, and the main part of downtown would become more pedestrian friendly.
The existing four-lane, 56-year-old Brooks Bridge, meanwhile, is considered structurally deficient. With a design/build cost of more than $145 million, the new bridge will provide three driving lanes on each side of two spans.
More: Brooks Bridge reopened after clearing FDOT inspection
The bridge will include a 12-foot-wide shared-use bicycle and pedestrian path on both sides of the structure and will cross over Santa Rosa Boulevard on Okaloosa Island.