BAKER, Fla., May 5, 2021— Monday’s town hall meeting at the Baker Community Center to discuss improvements to the traffic corridor between Alabama and U.S. Highway 90 had good news and bad news.
The good news is a traffic light will likely be installed at the Galliver Cutoff intersection with State Road 4 in Baker, as well as a safety signal at the school crossing in Baker.
The bad news is the Florida Department of Transportation will not be widening SR 4 and SR 189 to four lanes in the near future.
District 3 County Commissioner Nathan Boyles addressed the recent feasibility study conducted by the FDOT concerning improvements to the traffic corridor.
“It will not get four-laned anytime soon,” he said. “Traffic counts do not warrant the upgrade.”
The FDOT conducted a feasibility study of SR 4 and SR 189 during the past six months to evaluate potential improvements to the 19-mile-long stretch of highway linking Alabama to Hwy 90.
Not only is the corridor designated a hurricane evacuation route, it is the only north-south highway from Alabama to Hwy 90 in Okaloosa County. Although State Road 85 through Crestview goes to the Alabama state line, it crosses into Walton County before it gets there.
For the past few years, traffic has increased along the SR 4/SR-189 corridor, especially during spring break and the summer tourist season, as visitors travel to Gulf Coast destinations such as Destin.
Google Maps and the Waze app both map routes that take southbound travelers off Interstate 65 in Alabama and redirects them through Andalusia to Florida SR 189, through Baker, to Hwy 90.
As a result, Baker residents have seen a heavy increase of traffic, especially Fridays through Sundays, sometimes into Mondays, making navigation at non-signaled intersections difficult-to-dangerous, according to many people present at the meeting.
“Baker isn’t the little farming community anymore,” said one resident.
But, according to the study, traffic increases were not high enough to warrant widening the corridor.
However, the FDOT will reconsider it in the future, as long as the community and county commissioners continue to make this issue a priority, Boyles said.
“Stay on top of the issue,” he said. “As traffic counts increase, go back to DOT.”
Galliver Cutoff safety
Galliver Cutoff at SR 4 was one of 10 intersections studied by the FDOT.
The intersection was identified as one of the three most common traffic crash locations, the other two being SR 4 and Hwy 90, and Georgia Avenue in Baker.
The study also identified the section of SR 4 between Galliver Cutoff and Georgia Avenue as one of two high-crash segments.
As a result, the study identified the intersection as needing a traffic signal “to improve traffic operations,” it stated.
Baker School crossing
The study also identified the existing Baker School crosswalk at SR 4 and 15th Street as needing improvements.
The crosswalk should be upgraded to include a rectangular rapid flashing beacon, the study stated.
In addition to a flashing crosswalk sign, the study recommended that a shared-use path be constructed from Georgia Avenue to Hwy 90.
No timeframes on when any of the recommended improvements to the Galliver Cutoff intersection, the Baker School crosswalk or a shared-use path would occur.