Major Road Project in Okaloosa County Now Open to Traffic

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An 11 mile connector has been under construction for three years.

It completes a 16 mile limited access route from State Road 85 just north of Niceville, across the Mid-Bay Bridge to U.S. Highway 98 in Destin.

“For every dollar of construction produces, five dollars goes into the economy,” said Jim Vest, Executive Director of the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority. “This was a $140 million project so it should contribute three quarters of a million dollars to the economy of the area."

The new connector will have interchanges at State Roads 85, 285 and 20, giving drivers direct access from Interstate 10 to Destin, Niceville, and Miramar Beach.

"Saturday, when it opened and Sunday we didn't have the tolls enforced, we didn't start the tolls until midnight at Monday,” said Vest. “But we did see a lot of people coming through and exploring the area "

There will also be a new picture taking toll on the connector.

While authorities say the new route will clear up congestion, some Niceville locals are worried it will hurt their businesses.

"Some of the merchants a little concern perhaps they may have some folks by pass them and not doing business here,” said Duane Gallagher, Chairman for the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. “But then again we are going to work with those merchants to mitigate that."

Transportation officials are still calculating how many drivers have used the new connector so far.