Plans to ease congestion on Back Beach Road

Bumper to bumper traffic is a regular occurence in Panama City Beach during peak tourist season, but transportation officials are driving toward a change they believe will help ease congestion.

Some Panama City Beach locals say they’d rather stay at home than get out on Back Beach Road.

“Yeah, it makes me want to stay in,” Chuck Ellery, a Panama City Beach local said.

The Florida Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to expand Back Beach Road from four lanes to six.

“I think it needs to be widened as soon as possible. I’d take it [to] 8 lanes,” Ellery said.

The project covers about 7 miles starting near Frank Brown Park to where Thomas Drive and Back Beach Road meet.

“It’s gonna have to be done eventually. Just go to Destin, out in there and see the traffic now,” Ellery said. ” It’s six and eight lanes there and it’s congested and we’re gonna be just as bad in the future.”

Other locals like Glenn Faust agrees. He says what should be a quick trip up the street can turn into an overwhelming task.

“I’ve had times where it would take almost an hour. If there were special events going on it would take forever,” Faust said.

Faust says the Department of Transportation’s plan to ease congestion on Back Beach won’t last.

“What they need to do is just make an express lane and just make it from [Hathaway] bridge to Pensacola where you just go like an interstate,” Faust explained. “You have access and egress roads on the side where the people can get on, get off.”

Officials with the Florida Department of Transportation say the project is still in the works. They’re conducting traffic studies in the area. They’re looking at future traffic projections, environmental impacts, emergency evacuation enhancement and intersection improvements.

The cost of the project still needs to be determined. Officials with F.D.O.T. are still working on securing funding.

There will be a public meeting on the Back Beach Road expansion October 10th at the Lyndell Center in Panama City Beach. The meeting is from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Source:  News Channel 7

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