DESTIN — The addition of an eastbound right-turn lane into HarborWalk Village is one of the major parts of the ongoing project to improve U.S. Highway 98 between the Marler Bridge and Airport Road.
This 2.9-mile section of the highway, which is also known as State Road 30, will see a total of $4.6 million worth of upgrades in the Florida Department of Transportation-led project.
Besides the turn lane into HarborWalk Village, bicycle lanes will be added and sidewalks will be replaced, an eastbound left-turn lane into the Days Inn/Chick-fil-A shared driveway will be built and the top layer of road asphalt will be replaced.
The project began in late February. Weather permitting, it could be completed late this year, FDOT District 3 spokeswoman Tanya Branton said in an email.
The ongoing, district-led, $35 million project to widen the 3.8-mile stretch of U.S. 98 between Airport Road and the Walton County line to six lanes could be completed by early 2021. That project began in mid-2017.
When completed, the six-lane section of highway will narrow to four lanes at Airport Road.
When asked about potential traffic backups at that juncture, Branton said the district continues working with the local Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization on ways to improve traffic flow on U.S. 98 in and near Destin.
She said a project development and environment study for the highway between Calhoun Avenue and Airport Road is set to occur in fiscal 2021.
Outside of potential intersection improvements, however, “major widening is not anticipated to occur under this study due to the impacts to local businesses and right-of-way costs,” Branton said.
During the current improvement project for U.S. 98 between the bridge and Airport Road, lane closures will occur between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. The contractor will be required to maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction at all other times, according to FDOT information.
In an effort to reduce traffic backups on U.S. 98 for cars turning into HarborWalk Village, the Destin City Council in mid-April gave initial approval to an ordinance that calls for fees to be collected at the exit instead of the entrance to all pay-to-park parking lots.
The council plans to consider whether to adopt the ordinance on Monday, city spokeswoman Catherine Card said.