MEXICO BEACH, Fla. - A new highway that would connect Gulf County to Highway 231 is picking up another endorsement. Mexico Beach city officials have drafted a resolution in supporting the proposed Gulf Coast Parkway.
The idea behind the Gulf Coast Parkway is to connect Port St. Joe with Highway 231 in northern Bay County. Bay County commissioners approved the route for the multi-million dollar project last March. I would give drivers an alternative to Highway 98, allowing them to bypass Tyndall Air Force Base and Mexico Beach.
"I think the general consensus of the population is very much in support because it just provides a lot of traffic off of 98, which is a very good thing for us. Plus, you never know what's going to happen. In Panama City, Back Beach Road has just become a new area for industry and commerce that we don't have here because we're very much landlocked by the swampy area to the north," says Mexico Beach Mayor Tom Bailey.
In Bailey's mind, the eight to nine mile section of the Gulf Coast Highway from Port St. Joe to Mexico Beach would become their Back Beach Road.
"It'll come off a new section of road, and it will actually skirt behind Panther Swamp, and behind Bear Swamp, and come out right next to Tyndall. So it's the first phase of a big highway to provide transportation from the main corridors, like 231, or evacuation - get back into this area quicker from 231. But this is just the first small segment, and we're looking probably 4-5-6 years out," says Mayor Bailey.
One possible stumbling block is the ownership of Highway 98. Once Gulf highway is completed, state transportation officials want to turn this 4-mile section of Highway 98 over to Mexico Beach. Maintaining it could be a financial burden, but Bailey believes it will be a positive move for the community.
"That is good for a lot of folks also because we are very much a golf cart to the coast community, and, if we own the highway, we will be able to drive all the way and cross 98 right next to the beach with our golf carts when we go to the beach, and that's a real benefit," says Mayor Bailey.
Mayor Bailey also believes Gulf Highway will be a huge benefit in the event of emergency evacuations.
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