White: Unity needed in search for hurricane evacuation route
By By Sherry Digmon
Advance Staff Writer
Each group has its own agenda concerning a hurricane evacuation route.
One wants a route through the eastern part of Escambia County Ala.
Another is looking at Highway 113 through Flomaton as the logical choice.
Still another wants a route through Atmore to I-65.
What is happening, according to Escambia County (Ala.) Commission Chairman Larry White, is that the Alabama Department of Transportation and the legislators in Washington and Montgomery are getting mixed signals.
White is a member of the Project Evacuation Task Force which met last Thursday in Walnut Hill, the group's first meeting outside Pensacola. They talked about prioritizing the three routes, getting the most obvious route completed first and working on the other two for long-range completion.
This task force's objective is in establishing an evacuation route on Highway 113, the leg that connects Florida Highway 29 to I-65, and Florida Highway 4 to I-65.
According to figures from Peggy Young of the office of Escambia County (Fla.) Commissioner Tom Banjanin, who heads up the Project Evacuation Task Force, Highway 113 is by far the least expensive of the three routes. Young said Banjanin wants to work for all three routes, but secure funding for 113 first.
The Florida Alabama Strategic Task (FAST) Force's objective is to four-lane the existing roadways from Highway 98 in Navarre north to I-65. This would include the four-laning of highways 87 south and 87 north in Santa Rosa County and Highway 41 in Alabama.
Atmore Mayor Rodney Owens is working on organizing a Highway 97/21 corridor task force for this end of the county.
White will hold a meeting next Tuesday to get input from the Escambia County Ala. contingents.
The March meeting he refers to is a tentative meeting set by Commissioner Banjanin to get all parties together to set priorities.
FAST is comprised of 11 members from nine communities. Among the members are Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings, FAST chairman; Santa Rosa County Commissioner Debbie Dawsey of Navarre; Gulf Breeze Mayor Lane Gilchrist; and Milton Mayor Guy Thompson.
The 19-member Project Evacuation Task Force is made up of members from Pensacola, Century, Flomaton, Walnut Hill, Milton, Brewton. Among the members are Century Mayor Benny Barnes; Flomaton Mayor Joe Brantley; Jim Hicks, congressional liaison with Pensacola Christian College; the Rev. Willie H. Carter, Century; George White, chairman of the Transportation Sub-Committee, Walnut Hill; State Representative Jeff Miller, Milton; Janice Kilgore, Director of Public Safety, Pensacola; Jeff Mullendore, Emergency Preparedness, Pensacola; Bill Smith, Escambia County, Ala. Emergency Management; Flomaton Town Councilman Theodore Dean; J.R. Jones, president of Escambia County Bank, Flomaton.