By: Kelly Baughman
If you’ve ever crossed over the Florida/Alabama line by way of the beach, you’ve probably encountered the mayhem that is the pedestrian crosswalk that leads to the World Famous Flora-Bama Lounge. With traffic on Hwy 292 increasing each year, and pedestrian traffic heavily flowing in and out of the local hotspot, it’s no secret that the area has become an issue. With events like Mullet Toss, concerts at the Wharf in Orange Beach, and tourism exploding in the area, county officials and Flora-Bama owners agree, a solution is needed.
While the Flora-Bama Lounge and the Florida Department of Transportation have made efforts over the last several years to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety at the intersection, the problem persists. In May of 2016, one of Flora-Bama’s own was struck and killed in the crosswalk by an oncoming vehicle. In August of that same year, two more pedestrians were struck and injured. Since then, the concern from both Flora-Bama owners, county officials, and local residents has been on the rise.
Jenifer Parnell, a Flora-Bama spokesperson, said that while the company has made efforts to make the crosswalk safer like hiring law-enforcement officers to monitor the area and adding a traffic light, they have also been lobbying for changes with the Florida DOT and local officials.
In a recent press release, Parnell said, “The Flora-Bama’s #1 concern is the safety of our patrons, and the issue regarding the roadway improvements is very important to us. The road is a state road where two states meet and Flora-Bama does not own the road, but we are doing everything we can to get both states to work together to solve the issue. The Flora-Bama Lounge, Package, and Oyster Bar has been working over the past two years on designs and improvements….working closely with the FDOT, ALDOT, Escambia County and the City of Orange Beach on improvements that will reduce traffic congestion, improve safety, and provide a new crosswalk.”
According to the plan finalized by Flora-Bama Co-Owner John McInnis III and County Commissioner Doug Underhill, the project will start in 2018 and will be completed by the spring of 2019. Improvements under the plan will include restriping of the road to include turn lanes into all Flora-Bama properties, increased pedestrian traffic signage, reduced access points in and out of the Flora-Bama properties, a new crosswalk, a second crosswalk will be removed to keep all pedestrian traffic flow to one designated area, increased parking of over 150 spaces, improved lighting, and improved presence of crossing guards and/or law enforcement during peak hours and special events.
Parnell added in regards to the improvement plan, “The Flora-Bama recognizes our responsibility to be a harmonious part of the neighborhood, and we again take this obligation very seriously. Above everything, we want people to come and enjoy Flora-Bama with friends and family, leave, safely, and return with new friends.”