With gold shovels in hand and orange hard-hats protecting their heads from the deep blue skies, several big names from Panama City Beach, Bay County and the State of Florida broke ground on the construction of the new Grand Lagoon Bridge and its accompanying roadway on the north and south side of the structure. Years in the planning, the Grand Lagoon Bridge was literally a pipe dream until just recently. Today, in discussion with several people from the Friends of Grand Lagoon, I was told that for a long time, it wasn’t believed that it would ever happen.
I was invited to sit at a “reserved” table with Jim Hodges III (thanks Jim!) and was told that if I wanted a good story on how this project came to life I needed to talk to Lynn Banks. Upon asking his role in the project, Lynn humbly played down his level of action in the whole project, which was quickly picked up by his wife and his friends surrounding him. I was told of the countless meetings with the county and continual effort in bringing a whole community together to unify the effort of making the new Grand Lagoon Bridge a reality. The whole process hasn’t just been about a new bridge but bringing together a community that has lived next to each other for years, but never had a unified voice. The bridge project emphasized the very thing that all the Grand Lagoon residents had in common, the body of water they all loved.
In attendance at the ceremony was everyone from Congressional Staffer Jerry Smithwick to Representative Jimmy Patronis to Mayor Oberst, Panama City Beach’s Mayor. Also in attendance was Stephanie Kopelousos, the Florida Department of Transportation Secretary, several of the County Commissioners and Panama City Beach City Councilmen and employees.
The ceremony invoked emotion from some and excitement for all. County Commissioner and Chairman Jerry Girvin was the presenter and kept everything quick and clean with speeches from Smithwick, Kopelousos, and Patronis.
The entire project is projected to cost just shy of $20 million and will take approximately 18 months to complete. The new span will allow a waterway width of 218 feet, up from 107 feet and the traffic width of the bridge will increase from 2 lanes to 4. On the east and west side of the new bridge will be sidewalks escorting pedestrians over the lagoon and there will be fishing areas underneath. Also new since the last time we talked is a boardwalk that will travel from The Boatyard, behind Captain Anderson’s Restaurant, along the side of Thomas Drive and split to take folks under the bridge or over the bridge. Of course, you can expect those cool street lamps that are prevalent in the Panama City Beach CRA areas as well.
As of right now, the power polls for the temporary bridge have been set with power having already been removed from the existing bridge. Cable, phones and water will be moved in the next few weeks with the construction of the temporary bridge to be complete in February. At that time, they’ll demo the old bridge and begin erecting the new one.
As always, you can count on us to keep you updated as to the progress of this great addition to Bay County. We’ll have pictures and video along the way.