It’s been a while since we’ve heard of the potential widening of Highway 98 in the City of Mary Esther. There was some initial talk of making it 6 lanes but now the residents of Mary Esther are making it clear that they do not want to widen Highway 98. The City Council unanimously approved a resolution
that opposes the possible state-led widening.
Here’s why the residents oppose the widening:
- More lanes of traffic to deal with next to their driveways
- The removal of huge old oaks along the road
- An increase in speeders
Full transparency: I grew up in this exact area of Mary Esther. My grandparents originally built their home here and my parents lived here.
On the issue of “more lanes of traffic to deal with next to their driveways”…I get it. Those homes in Mary Esther Heights drop onto Highway 98. I’ve always said that I didn’t think it was a great idea to have your home sit directly on Highway 98, especially on that stretch of 98. Mary Esther Heights is the last subdivision before you hit Hurlburt Field. Before the overpass, if traffic backed up, it typically created a standstill in front of your house.
On the issue of removing the “huge old oaks along the road”, I understand that too. They are pretty. But the added reasoning for not wanting them gone doesn’t make sense. According to the Northwest Florida Daily News
, City Clerk Dana Williams said Thursday,
“They want traffic to slow down in Mary Esther for safety reasons, and so people will stop in Mary Esther and take in what it has to offer.”
Take in what it has to offer?
No disrespect, but I don’t think anyone is just going to stop and look at the trees on Highway 98. That’s like saying we should deal with the traffic problem in Downtown Fort Walton Beach because we want drivers to “take in what it has to offer” rather than allow vehicles to get to where they need to go.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see the trees go…but “taking it in” is a bit of a stretch.
And lastly, on the issue of increase in speeders…who knows. It’s “Bloody 98” after-all. And with so many people trying to go West in afternoon, speeders could always be an issue.
Over to you! What are your thoughts on widening Highway 98 in that stretch of Mary Esther?