Inlet Beach Underpass Breaks Ground

Inlet-Beach-Underpass
Rivard

Exciting things are happening in Inlet Beach on Scenic Highway 30A!

Friday, March 26, 2021 was the official groundbreaking of the new U.S. Highway 98 pedestrian underpass in 30A’s Inlet Beach. Scenic South Walton, an organization made up of area residents and business owners, has been dedicated to bringing this important safety feature to the area for many years. The organization works to preserve the environment and natural beauty of the coast, while increasing safety for pedestrians and cyclists. And this is exactly what the new underpass will do!

Scenic South Walton has collaborated with Florida DOT, Visit South Walton, and Walton County BBC to make this underpass a reality. The Inlet Beach tunnel will cross under the intersection of Highway 98 and Scenic Highway 30A, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to avoid the busy road and potential safety hazards. It will be 12 feet wide x 8 feet high x 136 feet long, and will provide an unobstructed, lighted path for safe crossing. The $5.6 million project has garnered overwhelming support, as it will help with safety, preserve the natural environment, and continue to support the beach and tourism industry. Leigh Moore, the Scenic Walton Executive Director, even said, “I have not worked on many projects—probably any projects…where there was this much support and this much readiness to come together to find a way to make something happen.”

The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) is partnering with those spearheading the project to add a public art element to the underpass tunnel, as part of its Art in Public Spaces program. Other art installations that are a part of this program include the Monarch Art Trail in Watersound, the Rosemary Beach Sculpture Exhibition, and the Alys Beach Sculpture Tour. According to the CAA’s March 24 press release, the public art component “will include two mid-sized sculptures installed next to each tunnel entrance and murals created on the tunnel’s interior walls.”

The CAA will initiate a request for quotes (RFQ) in April 2021, and the final commissions will be determined in August. There will be two artists/teams that will create the tunnel sculptures. For the interior murals, one artist/team will be selected and work in collaboration with local students as a way to keep the community involved. Art fixtures are expected to exhibit a theme of connection, just as the underpass itself connects the people and the environment in a positive way. 

Construction is on track to begin in April with an estimated completion time of 12 to 14 months. Artists will install their creations in Spring 2022.

This unique underpass tunnel will be a great addition to the South Walton community and its visitors. It’s exciting for everyone to continue to enjoy the beauty of this coastal area with even greater safety measures in place. If you haven’t started planning your beach vacation for next year, now’s the time to do it! And when you’re here, be sure to check out this awesome underpass and its artwork, the Inlet Beach community, and the rest of Scenic Highway 30A!