Stretching from Richard Jackson Boulevard to South Thomas Drive, the 1.3 miles of renovations will include new roadways, a trolley lane, sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and underground utilities.After a series of delays, the Front Beach Road Community Redevelopment Area Segment 2 road project is expected to be finished Spring 2019, officials announced at Thursday’s Panama City Beach council meeting. Stretching from Richard Jackson Boulevard to South Thomas Drive, the 1.3 miles of renovations will include new roadways, a trolley lane, sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and underground utilities, along with two storm ponds, according to a press release. Two storm water ponds were built for the project.
“The project beautifies the scenic corridor in a major tourist destination, but just as importantly it provides upgrades to all infrastructure-adding value to the property in the area,” said Kelly Jenkins, city engineer. “The work also provides some congestion relief by adding trolley lanes and sidewalks, increasing the walkability and public transportation in the area.”The project’s initial completion date was November 2018, but weather and a host of issues set the project back. Workers dug up three huge partially-filled propane tanks in the right of way, which lead to ceasing construction and the closure of the road, as the tanks were removed. Workers also had to fix a diagonal sewer line at the intersection of Front Beach Road and Churchwell Drive, which lead delays and a traffic diversion. An inlet with a water main running through it was also discovered.
“Obviously, surprises like finding a 1,000-gallon propane tank that is two-thirds full is going to delay progress because the tank has to be carefully removed, the fire department must come out because of the potential hazardous material, and roadways have to be shut down temporarily to remove the tank,” Jenkins said.The project is a part of a 30-year redevelopment plan that includes 19.8 miles of roadways in the Front Beach Road CRA, she said. Construction began in 2017, and the original contract with GAC Contractors, Inc. was set for $14.2 million-with $403,000 in 15 change orders. The total contract is $14.6 million, and there is a separate $2.2 million installation agreement with Gulf Power. The total cost of the project is $16,845,986 million, according to the release. Jenkins said officials were dealing with an old roadway system, and she doesn’t expect workers to run into anymore issues because a great portion of the underground work is almost done.
“This complete revamping of Segment 2 of Front Beach Road from Richard Jackson Boulevard to South Thomas Drive, ties into Segment 1, which includes Thomas Drive to Front Beach Road and takes in a portion of Hutchison Boulevard,” she said. “Remember that eventually, all of Front Beach Road will be redone.”Jenkins said officials are currently in the property acquisition phase of Segment 3, which is State Highway 79 from Panama City Beach Parkway to Front Beach Road. All utilities and infrastructure are being equipped through the storm hardening process, making them able to sustain hurricane-force winds and other weather elements prone to the area, Jenkins said. She said all utilities should be finished by October or November. Over 80 percent of conduits have been completed, and the city has notified all data and telecommunication companies about the need to place their lines underground. Water is finished in Segment 2, and all area properties have been switched to the new water line. The sewer part of the project is about 95 percent complete. Jenkins said business owners expressed concerns about customers’ accessibility, and signage was put in place to direct people to parking.
“The city has done what it can to minimize interference with pedestrian and motorists traffic by designating crosswalks and installing temporary fencing for safety,” she said. “The construction contract requires that access must be maintained to all businesses throughout the construction project.”Once completed, the project will add value to business and residential properties in the area through transportation and aesthetic improvements, Jenkins said. She said people will be able to maneuver through the area with additional vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle access.
“Take a look at other segment of the CRA, such as the area to the east on Thomas Drive in front of Pineapple Willy’s. This segment has been complete since 2011 and it is beautiful,” Jenkins said. “Soon, this next segment of Front Beach Road will look just as beautiful and be easier to navigate.”
Originally posted by The Panama City News Herald; written by Tyra Jackson