The Escambia Board of County Commissioners has studied the traffic on Pensacola Beach for seven years. Two engineering firms have examined the issues and identified the same two bottlenecks, according to Pensacola Beach developer Robert Rinke.
“One bottleneck is the toll,” Rinke said yesterday on “Pensacola Speaks.” He believes the county made the right decision to install the SunPass system that allows cars to come on the Santa Rosa Island with stopping to pay a toll.
He said, “They spent $2 million on those electronics to put that SunPass in. Now they don’t have to turn them all to SunPass. They can get some people a way to get through with a dollar initially until that ultimately will back up, but there’s a whole education process. They’ll do that slowly and educate and doing the right things.”
The second bottleneck is the only traffic light on Pensacola Beach.
“Both engineers said the traffic light has to go or you’re backing up traffic every weekend in the spring and the summer,’ said Rinke.
Five years ago, the engineers proposed building a flyover that traveled east and west and took the vehicles above the pedestrians.
“In general, people didn’t like it,” Rinke told Inweekly. “That was $70 million, and it was too much.”
He believes the latest proposal is a much better plan and is less expensive and more aesthetically pleasing. The plan has two roundabouts, four pedestrian underpasses, and no traffic lights.
“You bring people onto the beach. They go east. If they’re going to go east they get out of the core. They go west. If they’re going to go west they get out of the core. Now you’re dealing with just the people that want to be in the core,” said Rinke.
The plan creates a “pedestrian-centric Pensacola Beach, not a car-centric Pensacola Beach.” The price tag is $22 million, which Rinke and others propose would be paid with local option sales tax (LOST) dollars generated on Pensacola.
“We’ve generated $509 million over the last 10 years of LOST, and the beach only got $4 million,” said Rinke. “We’re proposing that we just take the share of LOST that we generate on the beach, bond that for 10 years, and pay for the whole infrastructure project with LOST that’s meant for infrastructure only.”
The traffic plan will be presented to the BCC on Tuesday, April 25 at its committee of the whole.