Walton County Construction Will Pay Off

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WALTON COUNTY-- A project designed to ease traffic is causing headaches in the meantime.

Construction on Highway 331 in Walton County is in full swing, but not everyone's happy with how it's going.

Over the next two years, a second bridge will go up across the Choctawhatchee Bay, and the two-lane highway will expand to four, but the process won't be easy on business owners.

The Clyde B. Wells bridge will soon be unrecognizable.

The nearly $150 million Department of Transportation project will expand the bridge and Highway 331 to help with traffic flow.

"Safety was certainly one of the main concerns being that we are in a high-activity hurricane zone to be able to allow residents and visitors ample time and also ability with this four-lane to get north if there is ever a hurricane," Walton County Public Information Officer Louis Svehla said.

Construction begins at the north side of the bridge and extends more than 10 miles up Highway 331. The DOT hopes to complete the project by 2016, but it has not yet broken ground on every part of the construction site.

"It's been a nightmare, if you really want to know the truth," Theresa Lacour, co-owner of L&L Marine in DeFuniak Springs on Highway 331, said. "It's been a stressful time for us."

The DOT paid Lacour for two acres of her land.

"It's not nearly enough, because they really honestly haven't considered your personal life. They just don't care. It's strictly by market values," she said.

Lacour says rebuilding her shop further back on the property will cost more than the DOT gave her.

But she says the end result may be worth it.

"It's a needed thing, I will say that," Lacour said. "I mean it's gonna be great. It is overdue. So we just all have to get through it. Have patience, but that's easier said than done."

"We're really trying to move this process to do what's best for this corridor and Walton County," Svehla said.

The debate isn't over.

If passed, the county's 331 Corridor Design Standards could determine how new and expanding businesses must lay out the first 300 feet of their property. This includes signage and landscaping.

For more on the expansion project and the county's proposed standards, you can visit Walton County's website at www.co.walton.fl.us.