PANAMA CITY - Governor Rick Scott has bumped-up the Highway 98/ 23rd Street flyover project on the state's priority list. Thursday, the Governor announced the project would begin construction next year.
State Department of Transportation officials expected construction to begin sometime next year, but this week's announcement makes that timetable more definite.
Until now the majority of the work on the Highway 98/23rd Street flyover project has consisted of designing the roadway and acquiring the right-of-way or land.
Florida Department of Transportation officials say they only have 3-more businesses left to demolish on the South side of Highway 98. The Passport Inn, Howard's Motel and Los Antojitos.
Ian Satter from the Florida DOT says "What this does, the Governor's announcement makes sure that the money that needs to be set aside for the project will be set aside for 2015 fiscal year."
The next question for D-O-T officials is who will build the flyover. Satter adds, "We will have several different contractors bidding to build that project in Bay County at 23rd street and U.S. 98, but the plan is begin the summer of 2015."
The last of the business owners aren't too surprised by the news. The Harbisons, who own Los Antojitos have already sold their property to the state and used the money to buy land for a new Los Antojitos on Beck Avenue in St. Andrews.
Owner Mynta Harbison syas, "We will definitely reopen and rebuild and hopefully be a little better, a little bigger, a little newer, so umm...It's a lot to process, but I think the project is definitely for the good of Bay County."
They'll keep the current location open until the end of February, but don't plan to rush into anything.
Harbison adds, "We'll take a little time in between restaurants and do a little bit more research and spend some time with the kids. Take them on a trip out West and just kinda regroup mentally and physically and be ready for a grand opening February of 2016."
Satter says the state still needs a portion of the Gulf Coast State College parking lot. The two sides are currently in negotiations.
College officials will lose about 175 parking spots. They're considering a new parking garage. They'll also need to move some signage at the main entrance off Highway 98.