Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018

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Roads, Bridges and Jobs

By Rick Outzen

Escambia County Commissioner Steven Barry is tackling the roads and bridges in District 5. He realizes that citizens may be getting frustrated with delays due to the construction, and he has scheduled a town hall meeting on Jan. 22, at 5 p.m. in the Ruritan Building located at 7850 Highway 97N in Walnut Hill.

He joked with Inweekly that a friend had advised him to put “Pardon our Progress” around all the detour signs, but he realized more was needed.

“I’ve got about six roads and bridges that are currently out of commission and a number of others getting worked on, specifically the bridges,” said Barry. “It’s made for detours that are lengthy, which make for unhappy constituent bases.”

He explained that the detours have put vehicles on secondary roads that normally have light traffic, which has caused even more concerns, especially since the weather has gotten colder.

“The closures have changed the dynamic on other roads because they’re getting a lot more traffic,” said Barry.  “We did have a lot of cold weather that second week of December and ended up with some iced over dirt roads where I had bridges out.”

District 5 is the largest of the five commission districts with about two-thirds of the square miles of the county and covers the most of northern part of Escambia County from Nine Mile Road to the state line in Century.  At the town hall meeting, the commissioner plans to go through the inventory of road and bridge work that’s going on and when some of the travel inconveniences will be alleviated.

Commissioner Barry recently met with the Florida Department of Transportation to discuss a new method for replacing bridges. He explained how a prefabricated steel bridge would replace a wooden bridge on Highway 99.

“I went out to just watch how FDOT would set a prefab bridge and then weld it together, almost like a large Lego set,” he told Inweekly. “That’s going to run about half the cost of the traditional rehab and construction, and it’s an FDOT-approved process. If that goes well, hopefully, we’ll be able to implement something like that in some of these other areas.”

Taking care of the roads in District 5 is a personal mission for Barry, who grew up in the district, graduated from Tate High and played baseball for the University of West Florida. He plans to live in the district after leaving office.

He said, “That’s one of the reasons why I think local government is such a unique and special opportunity. You do have the opportunity to help the community that you care about and that you interact with.”

Barry realizes that his time on the commission is limited. He said, “Our seasons in these seats end at some point in time. Hopefully, given our ages, we’ve got many years in the community after service. I’m going to see some of the people that I interact with now. I’m going to see them at the ballpark, at Publix, or interact with them at PTA things when our little girl starts to school.”

Barry added, “I’ve been really pleased with the amount of progress that we’ve made towards the paving of dirt roads in District 5. We have knocked out about 25 miles over the last four years. That is a lot of progress; it still leaves a lot to go.”

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