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Triumph Agreement To Fund Crestview Bypass

Okaloosa County

Tuesday morning, state and local officials celebrated the signing of Triumph Gulf Coast agreement to grant $64.1 million for the Southwest Crestview Bypass.

It’s the largest grant awarded in Okaloosa County history, said Triumph Chairman of the Board Don Gaetz.

Gaetz said the grant will help fund about one-third of the $200 million bypass. So far, it’s the largest project the Triumph board has funded.

“(Crestview) is the single-most job creator and sustainer in the county,” Gaetz said during a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon. “With 7th Special Forces and additional defense contractors … it’s the highway to the future.”

Tuesday’s signing was a long time in the making. Crestview Mayor JB Whitten said talks began 18 months ago at a “historic meeting” involving Okaloosa County commissioners, Crestview City Council, Florida Department of Transportation, Eglin Air Force Base and Triumph Gulf Coast.

“We were all on the same page,” Whitten said. “That meeting was historic. And it was the genesis of the $64.1 million awarded today.”

Triumph Gulf Coast is a nonprofit corporation which oversees the distribution of money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil-spill settlement. The organization is required to adminsiter the distribution of funds for recovery, diversification and enhancement of the eight affected Northwest Florida counties from Escambia to Wakulla. The organization is the steward of $1.5 billion dollars that will be paid out over 30 years.

Infrastructure in Crestview has not kept up with the growth of the area. Whitten said he remembers being able to get from Eglin Air Force Base to Crestview in a manner of minutes as an active-duty airman in the 1980s. That’s not the case today. Growth with the 7th Special Forces Army unit and Duke Field and the city’s lower afforable properties make it a popular place to live, Whitten added.  

According to the Triumph website, the bypass will result in about 1,300 new defense-related jobs, and provide long-term relief for traffic congestion by linking Highway 85 to U.S. Highway 10 southwest of Crestview.

“We in the city are calling next year’s strategic plan ‘A New View,’” Whitten said. “The bypass will help us create this new view.”

While growth continues at a rapid rate, planning, funding and constructing infrastructure moves at a slower pace. Gaetz said residents can expect to see “dirt fly” in the next 12 months and a completion of the first phase of the project in about three to four years. Additional funding for the bypass will come from the county, and $103 million for the bypass is already in the five-year transportation work plan waiting for approval in the Florida Legislature.

The next big Triumph project on the horizon will be in Escambia County with the expansion of Pensacola Airport’s mainataince and repair facilities, which will be around $63 million.

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.