20 years after it opened, Mid-Bay Bridge continues to evolve

Mid-Bay Bridge

A lot has changed in Destin since the Mid-Bay Bridge opened in 1993. Note that Destin Middle School hadn't been built yet in the upper right corner of the photo.

Special to The Log
Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 at 05:06 PM.

It’s been 20 years since the Mid-Bay Bridge opened to the public, but instead of focusing on the past, Jim Vest has his eyes set on the future.

With the number of cars traveling across the 3.6-mile span increasing at a steadfast pace, it's only a matter of time before the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority's executive director says construction on a second bridge could take place.

"It's really going to depend on when the traffic volume warrants it," Vest said. "We're probably 10 to 12 years out on that right now."

Based on studies from traffic consultants, Vest told The Log the average daily traffic on the bridge, which spans the Choctawhatchee Bay from Destin to Niceville, would have to increase to about 30,000 cars daily before they could justify construction of an additional span that would likely cost about $196 million and take three years to complete. The bridge is currently averaging about 20,000 trips daily.

Although the cost of construction sounds staggering, Vest said it's actually "pretty reasonable" when it comes to a transportation project.

"The (Hwy) 331 Bridge, which is shorter than our bridge, just came in at $118 million," he said about the recently approved project that would construct a second two-lane span from south Walton County to Freeport.

In addition to the construction of a second bridge across Choctawhatchee Bay, plans are also in place for the eventual expansion (four laning) of the current connector project that runs from the toll booth on the north side of the bay to State Road 85 north of Niceville.

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