From Mayor Mark Sheldon
Earlier this year, the City hired The Corradino Group out of south Florida to serve as project managers over the Front Beach Road CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) project. We did this in order to have greater daily oversight over the construction of what is probably the most important project in this City. That is, the overhaul of our Main Street – Front Beach Road.
The plan includes enhancing 19.8 miles of existing roads, including widening streets, adding landscaping, sidewalks and a bicycle/tram lane, undergrounding all utilities, adding medians and much more.
While the improvements are primarily on Front Beach Road, feeder roads like South Arnold Road (State Road 79), South and North Thomas Drive, Alf Coleman, Hutchison Boulevard, Nautilus Street, Richard Jackson Boulevard, Hills Road, Powell Adams Road, Clara Avenue, Cobb Road and Churchwell Drive, will also receive upgrades.
I’d like to offer a little history. Former elected officials established the Front Beach Road CRA in 2001 as a means to address public safety issues and to upgrade and beautify this tourist corridor. A lengthy document on our website (www.pcbfl.gov) details the rationale behind the plan. It was designed to be a framework for redevelopment of infrastructure for the next 30 years. This was never meant to be a 5- or 10-year project. It is just too large.
Traffic and mobility are our greatest challenges on this beach. The construction that is ongoing as part of the CRA project will help tremendously since it promotes the use of other modes of transportation. We are incorporating bicycle lanes and sidewalks for walkers and bicyclists, and once all of Front Beach Road is completed, we will bring in a trolley system that can pick up and drop off all along the beachfront.
Some segments of the CRA are complete on the east end of the beach and construction is currently ongoing on the 1.2-mile Segment 3. This includes the old Y at Arnold Road, where a roundabout is being added. Construction on Seg. 3, which began in 2021, includes SR 79 to PCB Parkway and FBR east to Lullwater Drive.
Like many of you, I live and work in this area and drive the construction almost daily. I understand the frustration of road construction, the inconvenience to our businesses and the patience required to drive in it. Let me assure you, this City Council is committed to seeing this project completed as quickly as possible. There have been supply chain issues, a change in the general contractor, and work has been expanded to include better storm water drainage.
Progress is being made.
• New underground installations including utility, drainage and sewer line improvements have been made, as well as pressure testing and sanitizing of water mains.
• New reclaimed water main was installed along Panama City Beach Parkway west of SR 79/Arnold Road Intersection. The majority of utility underground work to date has been completed west of Arnold Road on Front Beach.
• New sanitary sewer was also installed along Arnold Road from Front Beach Road through the “Y” to just south of San Vincente Street.
• New potable water mains and lateral service crossings have been installed along Front Beach Road, from west of Cabana Cay Circle to El Centro Boulevard, and along Arnold Road from El Centro Blvd north to Innocente Avenue.
• Florida Power & Light, WOW, and AT&T underground utility structures have been installed between Cabana Cay and El Centro.
Contractors are working diligently to install new underground utilities and pipelines, all while being cautious not to disturb or damage existing underground utilities; this task takes time and care to ensure no public services are interrupted during this phase of construction.
As our contractor put it, we are building the airplane while it is in flight. All of you still need access to your utility services while we install new pipes and lines. The traffic delays, the temporary road closures or reductions to one lane, are part of progress and something we must live with.
We’re always leery of giving a completion date because we know a lot of factors can come into play, like bad weather, supply shortages, unearthing items that must be removed and more. Timelines are often disrupted. Currently we are projecting Segment 3 to be completed in December 2023.
Road construction is inconvenient for everyone – especially our residents and businesses. We thank you for your patience and look forward to continued progress as Front Beach Road transitions into a beautiful new corridor.