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Local hurricane evactuation task force upbeat after Florida meeting

By By Sherry Digmon
Advance Staff Writer
Proponents of three hurricane evacuation routes met with Florida officials in Tallahassee Tuesday.
Mayor Rodney Owens and task force member Bob Jones were the only representatives from Escambia County Ala.
Three routes have been proposed, and three task forces were formed to promote the routes in their area. The Atmore group supports a Florida 97 to Alabama 21 route. Another supports a Florida 29 to Alabama 113 route. The third supports a Florida 87 to Alabama 31 route. All three flow into Interstate 65.
Following a meeting in Pensacola March 1, a central task force was formed from the three groups to present a unified approach to state and federal officials.
The consensus of Tuesday's meeting was that all three routes are needed, Jones said. Florida DOT Secretary Thomas Barry commended the groups' decision to look for a regional solution rather than promote one route over another as needing to be constructed first.
Within the next month, a similar meeting will be held with Alabama officials. In June, a meeting is planned with the Washington, D.C., delegation.
Among those attending Tuesday's meeting were Rep. Jerry Melvin, R-Fort Walton Beach; Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Pace; Escambia County Fla. District 4 Commissioner Tom Banjanin; Milton Mayor Guy Thompson; and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's liaison to northwest Florida.