BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – Highway crews are in the final stretch of the $10 million Jenks Avenue expansion project.
This will put the finishing touches on an idea that began more than two decades ago.
Since the 1990s, Panama City commissioners have discussed the need to widen Jenks Avenue from downtown Panama City, north to Lynn Haven.
It took years before Panama City found the resources to complete the first two phases, 15th Street to 23rd Street, then 23rd Street to Baldwin Road.
Bay County Chief Infrastructure Officer Keith Bryant said traffic would have only gotten worse without this last stretch from Baldwin Road to Highway 390.
“Baldwin Road and Jenks Avenue see a lot of traffic and it continues to grow,” Bryant said. “We were seeing substantial congestion along Jenks Avenue so this will solve that problem. The county was fortunate years ago to four-lane Baldwin Road and really do away with the congestion we saw there. This will do the same thing for Jenks Avenue.”
The county is funding the majority of the project with the half-cent infrastructure surtax, which Bryant said has been an incredible boost for infrastructure.
“This has been a huge success in my opinion,” Bryant said. “It generates about $12 million a year where the county has been able to resurface Thomas Drive, widen Jenks Avenue, repair bridges that really needed a lot of work, make some stormwater improvements where we can so we have been able to leverage those dollars very well.”
“It has really been a game-changer as far as the county’s ability to address the about $127 million backlog that existed at the time in infrastructure improvements that were desperately needed,” said Bay County Public Information Officer Valerie Sale.
Before the surtax, county officials could only set aside $1 million dollars a year from the general fund, for infrastructure projects.
“It would have taken many many decades to address some of these needs that we had and so we are grateful to be in the position we are in where the bulk of that is funded by people who are visiting Bay County via the half-cent sales tax,” Sale said.
County officials said the project should be done by the end of the year.