A new signalized crosswalk with a raised speed table surface and better lighting is just one of several improvements coming to help alleviate a chronic traffic bottleneck at a famous Gulf Coast honky tonk.
“It’s been a two-year process but they agreed to do it, did the studies necessary and now they are pulling the trigger on the contract to physically build it,” Flora-Bama majority owner John McInnis said. “That should not only increase safety for people crossing the road, but it should also alleviate congestion because of people sporadically crossing the road and cars always stopping. It will be more of a controlled atmosphere.”
Escambia County, Florida, commissioner Doug Underhill said the work on the new crossing is expected to begin on Dec. 3 and be completed before the next busy season starts. There have been several pedestrian deaths in the area in the past decade as customers — sometimes after enjoying a few drinks — traverse between parking on the north side of the road and the bar on the beach.
“That’s the immediate thing,” Underhill said. “I believe December 3 is when the notice for commence will begin for that contractor to get started and they are under contractual requirements to be finished before spring break. That’s going to give us a well-lit, safe place for people to cross, and a more smooth transition from pedestrians moving through to cars.”
The work will be the culmination of plans implemented by the bar and departments of transportation (DOT) in both Florida and Alabama.
“Alabama DOT restriped the road and gave us a brand new turn lane, brand new signage and completed all their work this year that would help with traffic flow,” McInnis said. “A lot of the issues with traffic backing up at Flora-Bama was the lack of a turn lane into our property.”
Underhill said Flora-Bama has made improvements on its property to help keep cars off the roadway once they pull off to park.
“One of the things we have there is people will pull into a parking lot and then there’s not a parking spot there and they have to pull back onto the road to go into another parking lot,” Underhill said. “By tying all the parking lots together, once the traffic comes off the road then it stays in the parking lot.”
Flora-Bama also submitted a 20-year master plan to Escambia County for further development on the 11 acres it owns just over the state line. Those could include parking decks as well as condominiums.
“That’s kind of a microcosm of sprawl there, and the pedestrian flows and safety issues with the lighting even were kind of afterthoughts,” Underhill said. “Before the Flora-Bama could build anything else they really needed to kind of say, ‘here’s our master plan, here’s what things are going to look like and here’s how everything’s going to work together.’ They’ve done a great job in doing that.”
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