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Florida DOT – District 3


The entire nation is taking the necessary steps to upgrade its crumbling infrastructure, and the state of Florida is no exception. The Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) is immersed in a number of roadway improvement projects, many of which are at least partially funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

In the DOT’s third district – which includes major cities like Tallahassee, Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City – there are three such projects under construction. Tommie Speights, public information director for District 3, says these projects are required to alleviate traffic concerns and make the roads safer for drivers.

Getting Wider

The DOT received funding from the ARRA for some much-needed upgrades to State Road (SR) 281 – known locally as Avalon Boulevard. This project consists of the reconstruction and widening of the existing two-lane roadway to four lanes, as well as storm drain improvements, construction of a new stormwater retention pond, sidewalks, a mast arm signal system at the intersection of Avalon Boulevard and Cyanamid Road, signing and pavement markings, construction of a frontage road on the east side of Avalon Boulevard and minor side road improvements. 

“This is a major corridor that runs from the city of Milton to Interstate 10, and it’s a heavily traveled evacuation route,” Speights says. “Improving to a four-lane roadway will improve safety and aid in evacuation if an incident occurs.”

General contractor Panhandle Grading and Paving Inc. broke ground on this $8.2 million project in August 2009 and completion is expected in fall 2011. Improving this stretch of Avalon Boulevard has been on the DOT’s radar for several years, Speights says. However, funding had always been an issue until the project was approved for federal stimulus funds. “Once the stimulus was announced, we could apply because it is a shovel-ready project,” he says.

Airport Access

Another stimulus-funded project is the SR 85 at SR 123 interchange project, which extends from the south of General Bond Boulevard to north of the Northwest Florida Regional Airport. The scope of work includes a new flyover ramp for traffic on SR 85 heading northbound along SR123, which will alleviate a congestion bottleneck. 

Contractor Anderson Columbia Inc. also will widen SR 85 from four to six lanes and will reconstruct the entrance and exit to the airport. Two bridges will be constructed on SR 85 to elevate traffic on the route over this airport exit. A new connector road will be added on the north side of SR 85, linking the current airport exit to SR123 through two single-lane ramps. 

Anderson Columbia broke ground on this project in August 2009. The $25.2 million job is expected to be completed in spring 2012. “This is a heavily traveled roadway used mostly by military personnel in that area,” Speights says. “More than 30,000 drivers per day use this road and intersection, and the corridor is a major connector between Fort Walton Beach and northern Okaloosa County [Fla.].”

Road to the Capital

One significant project from recent months that relied on in-state and federal funding is the widening of Mahan Drive in Tallahassee. This project will expand a 3.8-mile stretch of U.S. 90/SR 10 from two to four lanes, extending from Dempsey Mayo Road to Apex Drive near I-10 in Florida’s capital.

‘Busy Stretch’

With Sandco Inc. as the general contractor, Speights says this $19.5 million project broke ground in May 2009 and is slated for completion in spring 2013. “This has also been in the works for quite some time because this is a very busy stretch that leads into the capital,” Speights says. “It’s a major gateway to Tallahassee as well as an evacuation route.”

Florida DOT has utilized stimulus funding to create jobs, boost economic development and relieve congestion for Florida travelers, Speights adds. Along with road construction, the DOT delivers memorial markers, highway beautification and public transit.