If you’re familiar with the Panama City Beach area then you know that the beautiful (sarcasm), yet archaic Grand Lagoon Bridge is and has been badly in need of replacement. Having been built in the 50’s, it is time to be out with the old and in with the new. The planning has been in the works for years, but funding has always been the question. So, thanks to some stimulus funds, we’re good to go. Here are the top 9 things to know about the new Grand Lagoon Bridge, and the construction process.
- New bridge construction will begin sometime in September. Bids for construction just went out last week and are due in July 31, 2009, and I was told that construction is expected to begin within 4 to 6 weeks of final bids in. This seems a little aggressive to me, but if everything falls in place, these timelines should stay intact.
- Access over Grand Lagoon will remain intact throughout the duration of the construction of the new bridge. They will actually erect a temporary bridge to the west of the existing bridge which is expected to take 1 to 2 months. When the temporary bridge is up, they’ll switch traffic and demo the existing bridge (hopefully I’ll be there for that!)
- Total construction time of the new bridge is expected to be around 18 months. This time frame includes construction of the temporary bridge and the widening of Thomas Drive from North Lagoon Drive to the bridge, then from the bridge south to Bristol Street, which is around the curve – sweet!
- The estimated cost of the entire project (bridge and Thomas Drive widening) is around $18.5 million. Currently, Bay County has $19,462,409 to fund this project with $5,629,822 from local stimulus funds, $9,299,990 from state stimulus funds and $4,532,597 from grants that Bay County has been working on for years. Based on the cost estimate, Bay County has all the money necesary to fund the entire project.
- The new bridge will be 4 lanes total, two lanes of traffic traveling each direction and will stretch 250 feet across Grand Lagoon over three span structures. Each span will be 83 feet 4 inches long. In addition, on the outside of the lanes traveling in each direction will be a bicycle lane and pedestrian walkway. The automobile lanes will be 12 feet in width, the bicycle lanes will be 5 foot 6 inches, and the pedestrian walkways will be 6 feet. The total width of the new bridge will be 73 feet 6 inches, including 2 feet and 6 inches of outside barrier. The existing bridge is only 10 feet above the water, severely limiting the boat size that has access to the residential section of Grand Lagoon. However, the new bridge will rest 18 feet above the water.
- Right now, Bay County is considering walkways to accommodate fishing and other recreational activities under the bridge both on the north and south side of the lagoon. I’m unsure at this time if the existing funding in place could cover this cost, or if it would be in addition to. I would think this should be included in everything.
- The existing roadway that feeds the north and south side of the Grand Lagoon Bridge is only 2 lanes with a center turn lane, but the new wider roadway will be 5 lanes total. With four 11 foot lanes and a 12 foot center turn lane, the new widened section of Thomas Drive will also include bicycle and pedestrian walkways, to continue the ease of passage for business foot commuters and bicyclers alike from the bridge.
- The bridge will remain open to marine traffic for the duration of construction, with the exception for when the new spans are installed for the new bridge. At that time, the waterway closure will be coordinated with the US Coast Guard and local commercial marine businesses. Once the new bridge is complete, the waterway opening will increase to 218 feet with the maximum navigational width between the center span increasing to 72 feet 4 inches.
- The existing bridge structure was built originally in 1952 and sustained damage in 1995 during hurricane Opal. It has been cited to have irrepairable damage and is badly in need of replacement. Right now, the bridge is a 6 span structure that is 150 feet wide.