PACE — After complaints of traffic congestion between Pace and Milton for years, work on a connector project designed to alleviate some of those woes is now expected to started construction early next year.

GCOF Pace 81 LLC and the Santa Rosa County School District donated property to Santa Rosa County to build the Pea Ridge connector, a 1.7 mile road that will connect Highway 90 at the intersection of Santa Villa Drive on the south end to Hamilton Bridge Road at the north end. Volkert Inc., an infrastructure engineering firm based in Mobile, Alabama, was hired by the county in January to design the new road, which will also feature two roundabouts.

The county's contract with Volkert was amended in June because of a design change. The total price of the design contract now stands at $1.45 million.

"What this means is that Volkert can start designing the project," said County Engineer Roger Blaylock. "It should take them to the end of the year to finish the design."

GCOF Pace 81 LLC owns additional property near the planned location of the Pea Ridge connector and plans to build a new subdivision there in the future.

Right now, only a few roads that can take motorists north to south in the county and they are on perimeters of the county (Woodbine Road, Chumuckla Highway, Avalon Boulevard, and State Road 87 and SR 89).

The Pea Ridge connector road will be a more centralized route for people to go north and south.

"This will be great for the county, having a connector road going through some of the busiest areas of the county," said Commission Chairman Sam Parker.

The scope Volkert's work includes 100 percent designs and construction plans for a two-lane roadway and 60 percent design and construction plans for a four-lane roadway.

Blaylock said Volkert's design work is expected to last through the end of the year. Once the design is completed, the county will go out for bids on the construction of the project.