Wausau's Highway 77

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The four-laning of Highway 77 began over four years ago and is still chugging along.

It's been a long, slow process for the people in both Bay and Washington Counties, but the town of Wausau says it will feel the pain of the project long after the construction crews are gone.

For George Joyal, every customer counts. His gift and thrift shop on Highway 77 in Wausau relies on the passing motorists to pull in and pick up a few things.

George says, "We don't have all that much foot traffic here and we’re depending on the highway traffic. If it's not here, we're just out in the cold."

Many of the small businesses in the town of Wausau could get left out in the cold.

The Florida Department of Transportation’s four-laning plans for Highway 77 call for a possible truck route to bypass downtown Wausau to the east.

The $239 million widening project requires 200 feet of right away. Downtown Wausau can only provide 75 feet.

To make matters even more difficult, 11 of Wausau's downtown buildings qualify for historic preservation. That causes additional problems for DOT officials to try and widen the highway through downtown.

No one argues that a truck route will hurt the Wausau economy.

Sharon Hiers of Wausau Supermarket says, "It's gonna cut down our business a lot. It's gonna cut down sales. I may have to lay off some employees."

"As far as our business is concerned, I can't see how that helps if they take it around the town."

Transportation officials say the recommendations for the truck route are not final. The four-lane project is based on projected traffic flow from Bay County to the Chipley area in Washington County, which is expected to double by 2030.

Transportation officials will hold a public hearing in Chipley at the National Guard Armory on October 17 at 5:00. The public can ask questions and make comments about the plans.