Walton County and FDOT to Fund U.S. 331 Widening

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For more than 10 years Walton County officials have asked the state to help pay for a widening project on U.S. Highway 331. Earlier today they received news from the Department of Transportation that the state may now be able afford to pay for a major portion of the project.

Commissioners still have some work to do before they get any money. County commissioners say one of the busiest roads in Walton County is over traveled and unsafe.

U.S. 331 is only a two-lane road, but it's the only major north-south route that runs from the coast to the state line. Although the county began widening the south end of the highway last year, near 98, commissioners insisted they needed 24 and a half million dollars to provide real traffic relieve.

That help may have arrived. Monday morning, commissioners received an e-mail from the Florida Department of Transportation informing them the state has 19 and a half million dollars to put toward the Highway 331 project.

Sara Commanader, Walton County Commissioner, said, "This is a perfect example of state government and county governments working together to make things happen to make it happen for our citizens."

But Gov. Crist still has to approve the proposal before any money is allocated to the county.

Ronnie Bell, Walton County Administrator, said, "We do not feel that that's an issue because the trip funds are used to enhance safety. Instead of three lanes we'll have four and we feel that makes it a safer roadway."

If approved, the money will go to widen about four miles of 331 between Owl's Head north to Edgewood Circle next year. Officials say they will continue to brainstorm ways to pay for the remainder of the project.

County commissions could vote on the FDOT's proposal as early as tomorrow's county commission meeting.

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