CRA – South Thomas Drive Construction Update, Widening Road

When it comes to getting right down to business, the Front Beach Road CRA (short for community redevelopment area) in Panama City Beach is cranking out the first steps in making South Thomas Drive awesome.  The South Thomas Drive road, well known as a crater-ific, pitted nightmare of a road, is getting a huge shot in the arm by way of completely NEW road, widened travel path, sidewalks, beautiful landscaping and sweet street lamps.  Oh, and I forgot to mention all those ugly utility lines will be moved under ground; that’s huge!

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CRA Kick-off Party for South Thomas Drive Construction

Charged with literally changing the face of Panama City Beach, the CRA is on the move again.  The next project on the table is the reconstruction of the South Thomas Drive corridor and tonight is the kick-off party for the public to come in and see what’s going to take place over the next 2 years or so.

The CRA, or community redevelopment area has swept through the area over the last few years completely changing the Churchwell Drive and R Jackson Blvd (formerly Beckrich) corridors with not only entirely new roads, but new infrastructures.  These projects included moving utilities underground and adding beautification accents such as sidewalks, landscaping and street lights – something our area has been badly in need of for years.

Churchwell Drive is the road that travels in between Middle Beach and Front Beach Road that plays home to the Beach post office.  Included in the project was a new bridge that required most of the budget and time, but the result was a beautiful 4 lane road with a center turn lane, sidewalks and these cool street lamps that make you want to walk everywhere just so you can look at them.

R Jackson Blvd, formerly known as Beckrich Road underwent an entire transformation expanding it from a two lane, heavily traversed, dangerous main corridor to a lovely, wide, beautiful road that enjoys pedestrians all the time.  If you haven’t driven down it lately, you should.  I experience that euphoria as often as possible, and sometimes even pull over just to walk it.

I remember the ground-breaking like it was yesterday, thinking to myself, “2 year? Man, that’s a long time for a road to be under construction.”  But man, did the time fly.  Fully opened in April of this year, it has serviced the area well and opened up a quick way to get from Back Beach to Front Beach Road.

Take a look at the progress over the last couple years:

———————————————————So, what’s happening tonight?  There will be a public event that will explain to the public just what will be happening over the next 18 to 24 months in the South Thomas Drive area.  The South Thomas Drive corridor is the area that is in between the Circle K (by Shores of Panama and Laketown Wharf) and Club La Vela.  If you’ve traveled down that road, you know that it is a poor excuse for a patch of pavement, much less an actual road and is badly in need of a complete overhaul.

The new South Thomas Drive will include (I beleive) four lanes with a center turn lane, sidewalks, landscaping, those cool street lamps and all the utilities moved underground.  This will be huge not only for the area but also for Panama City Beach as this is a heavily traveled area.  The unfortunate part is having to endure the construction along the way; but there’s nothing we can do about that and it will be very much worth the trouble.

You can bet you can count on us to keep you all abreast of every new little detail that emerges with this in addition to construction update photos and the like.  Stay tuned for an update about how tonight went.

By the way, the event is at the CRA office from 5 to 7 pm.  The CRA office is located in the old St. Joe building next to the Nextel call center on R Jackson BLVD.  Click here for a map.