Bay County Adjusts to Rapid Growth With Latest Upgrade

Mon December 22, 2003 - Southeast Edition

The latest in a series of major Bay County, FL, transportation projects, the eastbound elevated roadway at the Thomas Drive and S.R. 30 (U.S. Highway 98) is expected to alleviate traffic congestion in the North Florida Gulf Coast community.

Phase I of the construction began on Jan. 6, 2003, and includes the construction of a flyover connecting the major arteries of the Panama City Beach Parkway and Alternate Highway 98, known locally as Front Beach Road.

So far, crews have installed drainage and erosion control systems and completed preparatory construction on the north and south sides of Highway 98 as well as the west side of Thomas Drive.

L & A Contracting Company of Hattiesburg, MS, is the contractor on the $29.3 million job.

When complete, the project will lead traffic onto the area’s new landmark, the nearly-completed Hathaway Bridge, which is being built between Panama City and Panama City beach. The westbound span of the bridge opened in October and the bridge is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

Because of the rapid population growth, the old Thomas Drive and Highway 98 have lost their effectiveness, especially during peak times of beach usage.

Road construction is moving westward on both Front Beach Road and Panama City Beach Parkway, formerly known as Back Beach Road.

“Our hope is that by spring break 2004, the side roads will be sufficiently upgraded to divert traffic from the construction area on 98 and the beach road,” said Tommie Speights of Florida Department of Transportation, District Three. “Most of what is completed so far is the preliminary work before we build the flyover. We are on schedule and things are looking good.”

To accommodate further traffic shifts, a temporary cut-through road is being constructed west of the Emerald Coast main banking facility, connecting front and back beach roads.

Phase II, which began in November and will run until June 2005, involves the construction of the east bound roadways along with the elevated roads. Phase III will run from December 2004 to October 2005 and includes the completion of roadway construction and installation of signals, lighting and signs.