Destin, Fla. - Destin City officials identify traffic congestion as a major problem, if not their biggest issue. But today, they can begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Workers are beginning a 3-year project to widen Highway 98.
And, they're off. Construction teams and heavy equipment are near the Track in Destin, and ready to begin the long anticipated Highway 98 Widening Project.
"This is Phase One. The initial set up, as we are starting from Airport Road, heading east," explained Ian Satter, Florida Department of Transportation.
The four-mile project will widen Highway 98 from four lanes to six, reaching all the way to the Walton County line at Emerald Bay Drive.
"The traffic pattern change could be dramatic but, we don't have a really good feel for it. Obviously, it won't change the number of vehicles trying to get through Destin," said Mayor Fischer, City of Destin.
Highway 98 is the only way drivers can get through Destin. There is no alternate route and no by-pass around the city.
"This entire corridor of 98 is seeing an uptick in traffic. We are seeing an uptick in growth. So, we have to make sure we can match that growth with this widening project to alleviate some of those traffic concerns," said Satter.
"We still suffer from the problem that, almost 70 percent of those vehicles on the road are not stopping in Destin, not going to Destin, and they didn't come for Destin. They are simply passing through," explained Mayor Fischer.
Along with widening 98, additional improvements will be made, which include: adding sidewalks and bicycle paths and stormwater retention ponds. Along with, adding and upgrading traffic signals to various intersections.
Major improvements take time. This Highway 98 Widening Project work is scheduled for 1,220 days.
Transportation officials hope to complete Phase 1 of the project by November 2020, barring weather delays.
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