Upcoming DOT Project Prompts Big Decisions for GCSC

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PANAMA CITY - The Highway 98 flyover project on the east side of the Hathaway Bridge will have some major effects on the Gulf Coast State College campus. College officials have to make some major decisions.

One of the biggest concerns is who's going to pay for the relocation of some of the facilities.

Early next year the Florida Department of Transportation will begin building a major overpass at the intersection of Highway 98 and 23rd Street.

The overpass will tower above the Gulf Coast State College campus. College President Dr. Jim Kerley says he's working with DOT officials, but he's also concerned about the campus' future.

"Now we've got a great view on the heavy traffic on the area on 23rd Street going to 98, but we lose that. People are going to come up 35 feet and they're going to see the tops of the roofs," said Dr. Kerley.

"The Florida Department of Transportation is going to work with them to make sure people are aware that the campus is there and help bring attention to that campus even if the flyover is put in place there," said Ian Satter with FDOT.

Kerley says the college will also lose about 175 parking spots. They'll have to move some of the signage, and possibly expand one of the entrances.

Gulf Coast State College officials are considering moving baseball and softball fields to make room for the 23rd Street overpass. They're considering locations like Panama City Beach.

"We think that is something that we need to do is change the softball field and baseball field because if you look at the plans, we could possibly keep them there but i think there's some safety concerned with that," said Dr. Kerley.

One of the locations they're considering is Frank Brown Park for the new fields, but college officials haven't made any decisions yet.

Administrators say the campus changes will cost millions and are hoping the DOT will pitch in to cover some of the costs. College officials will receive word on that in the next month.