By RUBY KEARCE
Congested traffic at the intersection of U.S. 331 and U.S. 90 in DeFuniak Springs makes it a dangerous area for bikers and pedestrians alike. In an effort to help alleviate this issue, DFS City Council member Anthony Vallee is supporting a bike trail to make pedestrian and bike travel more safe and efficient.
The Sun Trails Program funded project, through the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will bring an updated bike trail from Woodyard Road all the way through Baldwin Avenue. The Proposed five-year work plan includes $1 million for the designing of the bike trail from Woodyard Road to Baldwin Ave., then another $5 million for the designing of the Baldwin Ave. portion of the bike trail; however, this is not yet set in stone. Vallee believes it will be scheduled for the 2026 expenditures that will provide designs across the allotted area.
Vallee said that ideally the bike trail will be on the airport side of the train tracks going across the golf course, exiting on Live Oak Avenue, and connecting to Baldwin Ave. If all goes to plan, this will allow the path to intercede with the Multimodal Path, thus allowing for the use of Reconnecting Community funding to fix the crossings. This will also allow for the city to manage Dorsey Ave., south of the railroad tracks, and crossing over U.S. 90 with the Reconnecting Communities funding, which is a federal FDOT grant.
Vallee pointed out that statistically more fatalities are happening in DeFuniak Springs compared to areas like CR-30A in the county because the number of people driving and walking down 30A forces drivers to drive slowly. The opposite is true in a town like Defuniak Springs, with road conditions that allow for a motorist to drive faster. Vallee explained that although more people are getting hit on 30A, fewer accidents are fatal due to the slower speed of the motorist.
The Florida Sun Trails Program is part of a National Bike route, and U.S. 90 is currently a National Bike route known as the Old Spanish Trail. Vallee explained that the goal is to improve the trail that runs through DeFuniak Springs already and take the bike trail off of U.S. 90 and onto city streets through DeFuniak Springs and out of the traffic.
The main objective right now is to establish a safe route east to west, while identifying what can be improved north to south. Vallee said that in April it will be announced if Hwy. 83 can be realigned to the other side of U.S. 331 rather than widening the current location, which would put several businesses in danger of being shut down. Realigning it would eliminate a lot of traffic in that area making it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.