MILTON — For more than 30 years, the widening of Highway 90 has been a heavily discussed issue — and a long-awaited Florida Department of Transportation study is set to be revealed in April.
It took two years for FDOT to conduct a $1.5 million Project Development and Environment Study on two sections of Highway 90: from Scenic Highway to Santa Rosa County, and from Glover Lane to State Road 87 South.
The purpose of the Scenic Highway to Santa Rosa County project, a .8-mile endeavor, is to study the widening from four lanes to six lanes of U.S. Highway 90 through Escambia and Santa Rosa counties to provide additional east-west capacity alternatives to Interstate 10.
Highway 90 serves as a link between the city of Pensacola, the community of Pace and the city of Milton. The western segment directly connects with Interstate 10 and is in close proximity to the main University of West Florida campus entrance at Campus Drive.
The eastern segment connects with Avalon Boulevard, which connects to Interstate 10, and connects with State Road 87 and State Road 89, both of which extend north into Alabama.
Officials say Highway 90, if widened, would become a better east-west corridor alternative to Interstate 10, better accommodate projected roadway volume increases between Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, and better serve emergency evacuations.
A public hearing will be held Thursday, Feb. 22 on the project. Specific meeting information was not available at the time of the writing of this story.
The second part of the soon-to-be-released FDOT study tackles Glover Lane to State Road 87 South, a 5.9-mile project that would increase the capacity for the east-west travel on U.S. Highway 90 in Milton.
A public hearing on this section study has been scheduled April 17 on the issue, and meeting information is not yet available.
Milton Planning Director Randy Jorgenson said the study will analyze every aspect of the project development, from the impact on the historic district to the area’s environmental sensitivity.
“When the results are released, the council will determine their position in regard to the information provided,” Jorgenson said.
The roadway belongs to the federal government, so FDOT — while taking local governments’ opinions into consideration — has the final say for the future of Highway 90.
According to Jorgenson, if the decision is to widen the road, the city will seek the narrowing of lane width, lowering of speed limits, separate bicycle and pedestrian walkways, period lighting through downtown, public gathering places and a setting consistent with the community’s history.
If FDOT decides to widen the roadway, the county-owned Fisher Hamilton building on the south side of Highway 90 at Willing Street will be the only structure moved, and officials agreed to move it brick by brick to a location yet to be determined, according to Jorgenson.
With population on the rise in East Milton, the problem is only going to get worse, according to long-time East Milton resident and area advocate Kyle Holley.
“From what I understand, 2,000 plots are platted for new residences,” he said. “We have to have a solution.”
Milton resident Amber Van Why said the road needs to be widened.
“Widening the highway is more than a convenience issue, it’s a safety issue,” she said. “Highway 90 is the only evacuation route in this area … I adore historic Milton, but safety first.”
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