Examine Four Laning of Highway 79 Up to Vernon

Anxious property owners in northwest Florida are awaiting word on whether their land will be taken for a hurricane evacuation route.
The state department of transportation held a public forum in Vernon on the future four-laning of Highway 79.

Florida Department of Transportation officials along with their consultants presented aerial black-and-white pictures of the proposed four-laning. One section of the Highway 79 expansion goes through downtown Vernon.

For resident Cheryl Withrow and many others, they believe their hometown will be destroyed.

"Personally I believe it'll destroy our town. Basically, they'll be taking down the businesses on the westside of Highway 79, what the city will do for business tax revenue," said Withrow.

“It is still better than a bypass, because in other communities by using a bypass it essentially brings traffic away from town," said Jerry Brock.

Florida D.O.T. officials say it's imperative that the four-laning take place for hurricane evacuation, especially to the interstate.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist has made the four-laning of north, south hurricane evacuation routes a top priority of his administration.

Tommie Speights, with Florida Department of Transportation, said "We are getting everything in place so that the long anticipated four-lane project on the evacuation routes can take place"

Sometime next year would be the earliest the four-laning work would get underway. Florida officials are still trying to get the money for the Highway 79 four-laning project to Interstate-10.

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