US 98 in Panama City Beach, Florida, is a critical east-west roadway and hurricane evacuation route. VHB is conducting a NEPA study and conceptual design to add capacity on approximately 7.3 miles of US 98 by widening the roadway from four to six lanes from west of the Phillips Inlet Bridge to SR 79. The study also evaluates the benefits and impacts of widening the two bridges over Lake Powell Inlet compared with a full replacement.
Lake Powell is a rare ecosystem and the largest coastal dune lake in Florida. VHB is leading the study, which involves multi-agency coordination with FDOT District 3, Bay County, City of Panama City Beach, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and other agency partners.
The in-depth environmental evaluation of the western end of this corridor is critical as it traverses through Camp Helen State Park, which includes a trail under the bridge to connect the north and south sides of the park, as well as historic and archaeological resources. The project involves extensive stakeholder coordination to minimize environmental and community impacts to property owners, Camp Helen State Park, USFWS designated Coastal Barrier Resources, wetlands, and floodplains.