For the hundreds of people who sit in a barely moving chain starting about 5 miles south of Crestview every afternoon, I have one question: If someone were to walk between the cars with a bucket and when you roll down your window say “throw in two bucks and I will make this mess go away”, would you do it? My guess is if we had to pull out a credit card to pay the man, we’d do it. As you answer that question realize that you will pay that much in gasoline for your car as you sit, often dead still, waiting to move. And two dollars assumes your time is worth nothing. What should it cost for you to waste at least a half hour a day, every day you travel that route?
Those who have watched this space understand that I have asked these questions before. I have been told in the last few days that real estate in Crestview is becoming less valuable because of the traffic time between the south-end and Crestview. Those people who live there are therefore paying a cost not only in wasted gasoline and time, but in lost value as well.
I am convinced that the County and the City of Crestview feel your pain. They just can’t do anything about it. Several years ago I urged a tax increment financing approach that the County adopted. They have some money as a result of that, but not much, and certainly not enough.
Here’s what we know: Councilman Whitten in Crestview has made construction of a bypass his personal priority. Commissioner Kelly Windes has joined with other County Commissioners to authorize tax increment financing to provide threshold financing for a Crestview bypass. John Hofstad, the County Administrator, has made a Crestview bypass the County priority. But, we have seen no expression of priority from the State or Federal level and nothing tangible has been done, even though good people want results.
Why not appoint a North Okaloosa Transportation District and give that district the teeth to get a bypass built. Allow it to impose a millage rate that will create a number high enough that would support additional financing. Give the district the power to bond the construction of a road, or to create a toll if that has to be, or in other ways give your transportation district the tools and power it needs to be a constructive force in North End Transportation. That would empower the people whose primary goal is solving this problem with the financing to act. There is no one better versed in local government finance then the County’s own legal team. Turn them loose. A North Okaloosa District, incorporating both City and County, could also serve as a model for efforts in both parking and traffic flow along Highway 98. Government is missing the opportunity to do what only government can do.
Such a district would require approval voters in the North End of the County. If they do not approve, then I’m wrong that they would put a few dollars in the pot to solve the problem. If the electorate is given the option to do what’s necessary, and they don’t do it, then maybe we are more content than I thought with the way things are.
I would argue that everyone in North Okaloosa County would benefit by far more than the cost of the solution, by creating a North Okaloosa Traffic District and giving it power to solve the problem. I would also observe, as many of us have said publically, that BRAC has given all of us an unexpected gift of the Seventh Special Forces at Duke Field. We have some duty to deserve that gift.