NOTE: Okaloosa District 3 Congressman and Holt resident Nathan Boyles discussed an eastern bypass solution to Crestview’s traffic issues during the Oct. 31 Board of County Commissioners monthly workshop. His thoughts on how the discussion went are below.
Suck it up North Okaloosa County. Quit your whining. You don’t have a traffic problem. Highway 85 is only a parking lot for a few hours each day. Big deal. The six-lane parkway through Shalimar running between the snazzy new county administration building and that cozy little gated golf-course community that a fortunate few of us call home is flowing smooth as melted butter.
Or at least that’s what I heard when Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, the current chair of the commission, went on an extended tirade about my apparent excess of boldness in daring to relentlessly suggest that fixing the north-south county traffic problem deserves our full attention. According to Commissioner Ketchel, a social worker turned de-facto leader of a growing county of 200,000 citizens, the way to build a road is to get in a big circle, hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
Of course, we know what is really going on; building roads is hard work. You piss plenty of people off along the way. And more importantly, nothing happens fast. The people doing the work to lay the foundation to secure the support for the project are often long gone by the time the project gets constructed, leaving future politicians to claim the credit. In short, big, challenging transportation projects don’t pay well if your currency is political capital. For those folks, it is best to keep the focus on easy, feel-good pet projects that involve little political risk…and provide little actual benefit to our community.
The good news is that it appears a majority of the commission is committed to tackling the problem. Commissioner Kelly Windes [District 5] has been steadfast in his support for every current effort to improve north-south connectivity. Commissioner Graham Fountain [District1], the only other commissioner who lives north of the reservation like me, has been working behind the scenes to build the coalition of support necessary for such an ambitious undertaking. And Commissioner Trey Goodwin [District 4] has to this point signaled support for pursuing a solution to the problem.
The bad news is that Commissioner Ketchel’s consistent equivocation is sowing uncertainty, uncertainty that is undermining efforts to forge the political will necessary to solve the problem. But all is not lost because I think Commissioner Ketchel can be enlightened, not by me or by her buttery smooth commute to work, but by you. Contact Carolyn and tell her it is time to fix the problem. Contact her and tell her to get on board or get out of the way. Her phone number is 850-651-7105 and her email address firstname.lastname@example.org. I am sure she’ll be happy to hear from you.
When you talk to her, tell her this isn’t a Crestview issue, this is an Okaloosa County issue. We are a county of 200,000 people and we have a single highway, only four lanes wide linking our two halves together. We deserve better. When a single fender-bender creates a 10-mile traffic jam, it is past time to fix the problem. And worse yet, we may well be putting our national security at risk. Duke Field and the 7th Special Forces cantonment become inaccessible islands in a sea of commuters. Imagine what that problem will look after another 10 years of growth and development with no solution. Impact mission readiness and we may well see missions move elsewhere and then we’ll have a problem that an army of social workers can’t solve.
Nathan Boyles, Commissioner, District 3