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Officials concerned about traffic along evacuation route

With hurricane season approaching, some people are concerned that the Highway 331 evacuation route in Walton County, Florida won't be able to handle the high volume of traffic.

Three-years-ago, Hurricane Katrina brushed northwest Florida before making landfall along the boarder of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Emergency management offices across the panhandle were on full "alert".

Walton county EMA director Ed Balzley was concerned.

With Highway 331 as Walton County’s only north-south route, it would take nearly 24-hours to totally evacuate coastal residents.

Balzley told News 4: "What we try and do is to get traffic up 331 to Freeport, and then it’s divided. Some going north toward the interstate and the state line, and then other traffic diverted to highway 81"

For more than 30-years Carl Cotton has operated his produce stand on Highway 331.

He looks forward to the day when the two-lane road is expanded to four-lanes and says during evacuations its bumper-to-bumper, gridlock traffic/

"Yes, during storms it’s a situation where traffic piles up along [Highway] 331, and it becomes bumper-to-bumper and a situation that we need four-lanes"

Recently, Walton County Commission Chairman Larry Jones came back from Washington to discuss plans with the federal government and state leaders on what to do with the plans to widen the highway.

Jones says "Yes, we know there's a serious health point that needs to be taken into account and we need to do all we can to get [Highway] 331 four-laned"

Officials are now hoping some of the federal stimulus money will go toward 4-laning this evacuation route.


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