To maximize traffic flow, the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office is manually directing traffic at the merge points on U.S. Highway 98 between Destin and Ft. Walton Beach during peak afternoon traffic hours.
A major portion of Highway 98 was washed out during Hurricane Ivan. Two lanes have been restored and work continues to rebuild the other two lanes. The reduced number of traffic lanes, and the presence of construction crews, has caused serious bottlenecks and traffic delays.
Deputies are stationed at both the east and west ends of the construction zone on Okaloosa Island for approximately three hours, beginning at 4:30 each afternoon.
During those peak hours, motorists approaching the two-lane portion of the highway should not change lanes, and should not merge until directed to do so by the deputy. The plan will work best if both lanes are fully utilized all the way to the merge point.
The Deputy stationed at that location will manually alternate traffic flow between the two lanes. Motorists waiting in backed-up traffic will not gain an advantage by changing lanes at any time prior to the merge point.
The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office plans to continue staffing the eastbound and westbound merge points on Highway 98 until post-hurricane repairs have been completed and all four lanes have been re-opened between Fort Walton Beach and Destin.
Meanwhile, after several weeks of delays due to hurricane activity in the area, work has resumed on the Thomas Drive and Highway 98 roadway flyover project at Panama City Beach.
Construction crews are working on building the elevated roadway and are currently installing support pilings on the east and west sides of the project. They’re also working on building the ramps which will be used by motorists when the project is completed.
The Department of Transportation says drivers can expect temporary traffic shifts and pattern changes during the construction.
The project should be completed sometime in late 2006.