Traffic in the Pier Park area of Panama City Beach has been a long-time issue. Discussions of creating a “Back Back Beach Road,” which is now called Bay Parkway, began in 2003.
At 1pm on Friday, Bay Parkway, which runs horizontal with Back Beach Road, and turn lights on SR79 will be activated for the public.
“The intent is for us to basically have three routes to travel east and west on the island. So, you have Front Beach Road, Back Beach Road, and the quirky Back Back Beach Road, which is Bay Parkway,” said Panama City Beach City Manager Mario Gisbert.
Bay Parkway will allow travelers going to Pier Park to bypass the intersection of 79 and Back Beach Road. The road is expected to relieve congestion in the area.
“In traffic terms, this will present a 7% lift to the intersection of Back Beach Road and 79, which is compounded hourly. A 7% better this hour, 14% the next hour, and so on and so on,” said Gisbert.
When the city began developing this road, the Florida Department of Transportation decided to install new turning lanes and traffic signals on 79.
“Due to the amount of traffic that this road will see as it connects to State Road 79, we did an evaluation and determined a turn signal would be warranted and needed here, as well as adding these turning lanes so we can make sure that traffic on 79 can continue to flow but also be able to access this particular roadway, as well,” said FDOT spokesperson Ian Satter.
Officials say this is a good partnership between the state and the city, benefiting travelers from all over.
“It’s a pedestrian upgrade, it’s a bicycle upgrade, it’s a roadway upgrade. It will help make our roadway system that much more efficient,” said Gisbert.
Phase one of the Bay Parkway runs about a mile and a half. The city plans on extending the road an extra three miles in the future. Once the parkway is completed, it will go as far as Nautilus Street. The city says it is working with FDOT and Bay County to try to expedite the rest of the project.