- The Florida Department of Transportation’s Turnpike Enterprise plans to construct a new toll road connecting U.S. 98 in Panama City Beach to Interstate 10, aiming to provide faster access to the Emerald Coast area and improve emergency response routes.
- The toll road would allow motorists to travel at higher speeds (70-75 mph), reducing travel time compared to the current route through backroads and state routes.
- The project faces challenges due to staggering construction costs of $58 million per mile, with projected tolls of 20 cents per mile. Potential benefits include supporting the local logistics supply chain and enhancing connections to the Panama City port and Tyndall Air Force Base. Delays could impact the anticipated completion date of 2035.
TALLAHASSEE — Anxious beach lovers may eventually have a faster and better way to get to the Emerald Coast near Panama City Beach in Florida, but it’ll cost them. And, unfortunately, it’ll take a while to get it buildt. The Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Turnpike Enterprise is spearheading efforts to introduce a new toll road connecting U.S. 98 in Panama City Beach to Interstate 10, a year after Bay County’s Transportation Planning Organization requested the FDOT to study the feasibility of the connection.
The current trip from I-10 is relatively slow going among country backroads and state routes through long stretches of open farmland. The new turnpike would allow motorists to cruise at 70-75 mph as they make their way to and from the beach, and allow cargo to quickly get out of port and to distant destinations.
In addition to a smoother path into Panama City, the new turnpike would also provide emergency response and hurricane evacuation routes, Turnpike officials say. Plus, they point out, it could support the state’s logistics supply chain by improving the connection to the Panama City port, intermodal distribution centers near there, and support Tyndall Air Force Base.
Three potential routes for the potentially 50-mile-long toll road are under consideration, but the costs projected are staggering. Construction estimates are at $58 million per mile, and motorists can likely expect a 20-cent-per-mile charge. Revenue from tolls would counterbalance bonded construction costs, provided the route doesn’t extend into Gulf County. If the toll road becomes operational by 2035, it’s expected to span approximately 50 miles, providing a rapid avenue from coastal areas to I-10. One of the proposed routes may extend into Gulf County.
FDOT’s preliminary analysis considered local support, environmental impact, financial feasibility, and the necessity of the road. Local leaders will engage in discussions with neighboring counties, including Calhoun and Jackson County, to ensure a collaborative approach. Despite the optimism, officials have cautioned that while the current timeline projects a 2035 completion date, delays could extend the timeline.