Toll road from U.S. 98 in Bay County to I
HomeHome > News > Toll road from U.S. 98 in Bay County to I

Toll road from U.S. 98 in Bay County to I

Jan 29, 2024

PANAMA CITY — State and local officials are working to bridge the gap between a heavily traveled highway and a nearby interstate.

In a Bay County Transportation Planning Organization meeting on Wednesday, officials with Florida's Turnpike, a division of the Florida Department of Transportation, presented the findings of a study into a possible toll road that would connect U.S. 98 in Bay County to Interstate 10 in Jackson County.

For Panama City Beach Councilman Michael Jarman, who serves on the TPO, there would be many benefits to having such a road, including boosting the local economy by allowing faster transportation of goods.

"A turnpike to I-10 would also provide us another emergency egress point in case of a hurricane," Jarman said. "With the growth of the area, having more ways in and out, especially those that can be faster, are only going to benefit us as a county."

Information from the Florida's Turnpike presentation states three routes are being considered for the road. Ranging from about 45 miles to about 53 miles in length, all would boast four lanes and begin near the bend of U.S. 98 and Tyndall Parkway. Two of the routes span through only Bay, Calhoun and Jackson counties, while one cuts through Bay, Gulf, Calhoun and Jackson counties.

Jarman said estimates are for the toll to cost about 20 cents per mile, meaning motorists could expect to pay approximately $10 to travel the road.

Though Wednesday's meeting marked an early step in the project gaining momentum, Jarman noted FDOT hopes for the road to be open by about 2035, if all future processes run smooth.

"No one has a crystal ball into the future, so nothing is set in stone," he said. "I believe the Turnpike department is really interested in doing something like this, but there is a process that they have to go through, (and) part of that is the buy-in of all the communities that the (road would) affect."

Panama City Commissioner Josh Street, who also serves on the Bay County TPO, said the next step in the project will be for these communities to form a "coalition of support."

Local roads:A long time coming: PC working with FDOT to take over portion of U.S. Business 98

"That will involve (the other counties) seeing if this is something that they can support too," Street said. "It has to be a collective effort to see something like this actually get constructed."

He also said one of the things that sets this road apart from other corridors that already exist in the area is that it would be an interstate, allowing for faster travel without traffic lights.

Like Jarman, Street believes the road would vastly improve the area.

"Any of us who have traveled by car know that between here and I-10 there's lots of small towns, there's 35-mile-per-hour areas, (and) there's stoplights," he said. "There's lots of things between us and the interstate. This would be a connector, and it's something that's been dreamed about for a long period of time."

Local roads: