Road work ahead: U.S. 98 widening in Walton County slated to last into 2023

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

MIRAMAR BEACH — Motorists in Walton County soon will find themselves contending with a little more than 5 miles of construction on U.S. Highway 98.

The widening of the highway from four lanes to six lanes on the 3.4-mile section between Emerald Bay Drive and Tang-O-Mar Drive is slated for completion this fall. Before that work is completed, however, another widening project is set to begin this month on a nearby 1.8-mile section of U.S. 98 between Mack Bayou Road and Walton County Road 30A.

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A Florida Department of Transportation map shows the work zone for the next segment of widening U.S. Highway 98 from three lanes to six lanes in South Walton County. The $15.7 million project is slated to begin next month, with completion projected in late 2023.

Mack Bayou Road is two miles east of Tang-O-Mar Drive, a section of U.S. 98 that already comprises six lanes.

The upcoming widening between Mack Bayou Road and CR 30A is a $15.7 million project designed, in part, to "reduce congestion for the more than 44,000 daily drivers who travel this segment of U.S. 98 daily," according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

In addition to widening the route from four lanes to six lanes, the project will include construction of new 5- to 6-foot-wide sidewalks on the north side of the road. Also, the project will include construction of a 10-foot-wide shared-use path on the south side of U.S. 98, according to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

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Additionally, according to FDOT, the project includes upgrading pedestrian crossings at the three signalized intersections along the project route to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with drainage improvements and improvements to the traffic signals at the Mack Bayou Road, Hewett Road and CR 30A intersections.

The work is scheduled for completion in late 2023, according to the FDOT.

The work now beginning to wind down on U.S. 98 in Walton County is a $42 million project that had been scheduled for completion this summer, but a more recent FDOT schedule placed the projected completion date this fall.

FDOT spokeswoman Tanya Branton said Friday that since the 2016 start of that project, "the contractor has been challenged by multiple events that include inclement weather, multiple hurricanes that temporarily diverted resources to other areas of the state, and manpower shortages attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic." 

As has been the case with the ongoing work on U.S. 98 between Emerald Bay Drive and Tang-O-Mar Drive, motorists are advised by FDOT that the upcoming work on the highway between Mack Bayou Road and CR 30A will require occasional "temporary, nighttime lane restrictions between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m."

Contractors will, however, "be required to maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction at all other times." Also, the FDOT noted that "a left lane and the option to make a U-turn will be maintained at each traffic intersection."

Construction continued Friday on the westbound side of U.S. Highway 98 between Tang-O-Mar Drive and Emerald Bay Drive in Walton County. Three-laning of the 3.4-mile section of the highway in each direction had been slated for completion this summer, but work now is expected to be completed in the fall, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The FDOT is taking a couple steps to keep people informed about the ongoing work on U.S. 98. Periodic email updates will be sent to anyone who emails their name and a preferred email address to info@MyUS98.com. Additionally, people can sign up for cellphone text alerts by texting the keyword MyUs98 to 313131.

Regular updates on the widening of U.S. 98 also are posted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MyUS98Walton/.