Flyover Funding

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Those ribbons of concrete and steel that were supposed to create a crowning "bow" on top of the local transportation network are apparently not in Bay County's future.

The state will most likely stop construction on the Highway 98-Thomas Drive interchange after crews finish the first phase, giving drivers a straight shot to the new Hathaway bridge.

Once phase one of the improvements to the Thomas Drive Highway 98 intersection is finished, the state probably will not fund phases two and three.

Transportation officials say we just don't need it. Construction began on phase one in early 2003. When it's completed next spring, it will carry eastbound traffic from Back Beach Road over Thomas Drive and on to the Hathaway Bridge, but don't look for phases two and three to get off the ground any time soon.

Allan Bense, (R) House Speaker says, "There are a lot of engineers in the district DOT office who feel that will take care of our needs for quite some time.”

That means no through lanes for westbound traffic onto Back Beach Road, and no flyover for westbound traffic onto Thomas Drive.

Despite the funding cut, project officials say the phase one improvements will have a major impact.

Gary Bellamy, a construction official, says, "We think it will eliminate a major part of the traffic problem and it’s a major step in solving traffic problems throughout the corridor."

But motorists who drive this road every day don't share that sentiment.

Matt Cherry, a driver, says, "I think they should finish it like they said they were going to do. We need all the flyovers, especially the one over to Thomas Drive, ‘cuz I work on Thomas Drive and any given day of the week it’s pretty hard making that lefthand turn."

The state is not totally abandoning the Highway 98 corridor, just shifting the focus.

"The issue now is on the eastside and there will be some work done over the next couple of years to alleviate some of the traffic on the eastside."

But that $90 million project isn't funded either and there’s no word on when it will be budgeted.

Speaker Bense says he will focus his attention on getting that money there. Right now crews are finishing the concrete deck for the roadway on the eastern end of the project.

In the coming months you will start to see the deck on the western end, but once that's completed, nothing more. Phase one roadway improvements will cost nearly $30 million.