A major highway project in Panama City Beach moves along. But, it is bringing changes that not all everyone along the corridor is happy about. News 13 gets to the bottom of the issue in this week's Problem Solver.
If you have driven U.S. 98-Back Beach Road in recent months, you have seen all the orange barrels and work underway. It brings new pedestrian features and bike paths along with eventually an improved surface...from Heather Drive to near Thomas Drive. But, at one particular location just west of the entrance to Frank Brown Park, Doctor John England of the Seawind Medical Clinic is worried. Dr. England says, "We opened in 2000, so for thirteen years we had a merge lane to turn out of the business...we had a lane to protect us from the oncoming traffic. I had to pay an impact cost to open the business here …for these two curb cuts and boulevard cuts. We had about 150 yards to merge left and have a good smooth flow and they took it away ... without consulting us.
Dr. England says back in March, crews ground up the road and then repaved it covering the merge lane. According to Dr. England, "I thought for sure any day they would come along and stripe it…put it back like it was. But, Dr England says he was informed recently. That it is not in the plans… may be months before they even get around to consider it in a serious way.
The location sees a lot of traffic according to the doctor, "A hundred fifty cars pulling out of here into a very active traffic lane. I was hoping they would put a temporary stripe and repaint the sign that says merge and right turn. I am afraid of somebody getting hurt out here."
Obviously this section of U.S. 98 is very busy. News 13 wanted to get answers to questions about the project that's ongoing out here and to see if something can be done to improve safety.
According to Ian Satter with the Florida Department of Transportation. Satter tells News 13, " We are talking with this gentleman looking at different ways to enhance safety in the area...temporary striping being discussed..nothing locked in stone."
Satter showed me the plan to extend the merge lane in front of the Seawind Clinic as the project moves along. He says, "When (the cars) on U.S. 98 head east the three lanes become two. So, we are going to allow longer merge lanes so care can safely merge so it matches current standards. Looking at early 2014 to wrap up entire project to get it all resurfaced."
Hopefully something can be worked out soon to help the safety concerns of Dr. England, his patients and the other businesses nearby.
Keep this in mind, the lower speed limit in that work zone on Highway 98 will remain at 45 miles per hour for the duration of the project.