Last night the Santa Rosa Island Authority met to determine which of two master plan options they would pursue for the main intersection at Pensacola Beach, where Pensacola Beach Boulevard splits into Via de Luna and Fort Pickens Road. It’s the culmination of a two-year, $330,000 planning process, the goals of which include improving parking circulation and increasing pedestrian safety. Concept A carries an estimated price tag of $18,278,535, while concept B is estimated at $25,546,400.
The main difference between the plans is whether to elevate the pedestrian walkway or the road itself. Board members are leaning toward concept B — elevating the road — but are concerned about the higher cost of that plan, which would almost certainly require an increased bridge toll to fund. They also expressed concerns that only a few members of the public have shown up at meetings to give their input.
That’s why they’ve delayed a vote until the February 8 board meeting. Their recommendation from that meeting would then go to the Escambia County Commission for a final vote.
Both concepts would reduce the total number of public parking spaces at the beach’s core (currently 1,973). Concept A would result in 1,444 spaces, a 26% difference, while concept B would result in 1,594 spaces, a 19% difference. The preferred concept B (shown in the above artist’s rendering) has the following additional “Opportunities/Constraints”:
- Clear and easy at-grade pedestrian link between the beach and bay areas. Creation of a unique landscape connection to encourage flow back and forth that can happen without major vehicular lane crossings.
- Complete pedestrian separation from vehicular roadways except for a few designated parking lot crossings.
- Major civil construction required to achieve proposed bridges and ramps, however simpler than the Couplet roadway connection in Concept A.
- Clear readability of where new visitors should be going to the reach the beach.
- Opportunity to create a transit hub space.
- Dispersed vehicular parking and higher degree of connections between parking.
- Still required to cross a vehicular roadway to access the Sand Shaker.
- Direct vehicular connection to the beach is included.