By Patrick McCreless | Aug 7, 2019 | www.newsherald.com
The Bay County Commission agreed on Tuesday to spend more than $8 million to repave a more than 3-mile section of Thomas Drive, one of the main tourism corridors at Panama City Beach. The project construction is slated to start in January.
PANAMA CITY — A main tourism corridor on the Beach is set for a facelift. The Bay County Commission approved an approximately $8.1 million contract with Roberts and Roberts Inc. on Tuesday to resurface more than 3 miles of Thomas Drive. The long-demanded project will help improve traffic for one of the Beach’s top tourism routes, local officials say.
“This was a hot topic when I was elected three years ago and it’s taken this long to push it forward,” Philip Griffitts, commission chairman, said of the Thomas resurfacing. “I’m glad to see this is finally coming to fruition.” The contract includes designing the project and fully resurfacing Thomas Drive between Joan Avenue and Bristol Street. The contract also calls for storm drain repairs.
The county will pay for the project with half-cent sales tax money. The tax, passed in 2016, is earmarked for road and infrastructure improvements. Construction is slated to start in January after the design phase is finished and continue through May. “Our goal is always to get work like that done during the off season,” said Keith Bryant, county public works director, referring to the tourism season.
The road was last fully repaved 25 years ago and has been a long-time complaint from residents. The project would have started sooner, but Panama City Beach needed time to reroute water and sewer lines, Griffits had said. Lacee Rudd, public relations manager for Visit Panama City Beach, the city’s tourism organization, said the road project would benefit tourism.
“With the repaving of Thomas Drive, that will definitely enhance the visitors’ experience,” Rudd said. “There’s a lot of restaurants and things to do on Thomas Drive, so it’ll definitely enhance the experience.” Rudd noted that despite Hurricane Michael, which hit Bay County Oct. 10, tourism on the Beach has remained relatively stable this year. “It’s been steady this season,” she said. “Tourism for some months this year is even up over last year.”
Thomas Drive won’t be the only road getting some needed attention from the county in the coming months.
The county commission on Tuesday also agreed to spend about $3.7 million to stabilize and upgrade Silver Lake Road and Nehi Road in Fountain. “They are unpaved collector roads that a lot of citizens use to get to their homes,” Bryant said.
The Florida Department of Transportation recently allocated the money to the county for hurricane recovery-related road costs. Bryant said the roads are partly unpaved and were damaged by the heavy trucks used to haul debris in the months after the hurricane. The county will use the money to improve the roads by fully paving them.
Bryant said construction work on the two roads would likely start in the next four to six months.
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