BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — In the coming months Bay County officials said Back Beach Road could begin to be widened to six lanes.
Gov. Ron DeSantis earmarked $98 million to expand Highway 98 from the Hathaway Bridge to Richard Jackson Blvd.
“Somebody is getting the money, so it might as well be us,” Panama City Beach Councilman Phil Chester said.
DeSantis said the 20 statewide projects will make drives more efficient.
“This is going to be important to help improve traffic flow,” DeSantis said.
Bay County officials said cars turn stagnant when the weather warms.
“This is the most congested corridor in Bay County and we have so much growth coming to that area that without this widening it had the potential to just to be a parking lot out there during the summer during the peak season,” Bay County Chief Infrastructure Officer Keith Bryant said.
Chester said the widening is needed for Panama City Beach’s continued growth.
Bryant said the Florida Department of Transportation has funding in place to widen the road from State Road 79 to Richard Jackson Blvd.
This section was the last question mark for the project.
“In my 26 years of being an engineer, for a local government, I’ve never seen a problem identified and solved this fast,” Bryant said.
He said the plans should cut down on car wrecks.
“When you have that much congestion, congestion within that area, it leads to accidents. So by widening the roadway, we’ll see fewer accidents,” Bryant said.
The 20 proposed projects would cost $7 billion. DeSantis is proposing $4 billion coming from the general revenue surplus. The other $3 billion would come from what is being called “innovative financing.” The legislature will have to approve the plans.