GULF BREEZE — Multiple road improvement projects have begun on Fort Pickens Road and Highway 399, J. Earl Bowden Way, through the Fort Pickens and Santa Rosa areas of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. 

At the Fort Pickens area, 4.45 miles of the road will receive an asphalt overlay resurfacing. Additionally, 1.5 miles of the road will be realigned to the north, moving the road away from the Gulf to help reduce road closures due to storm overwash. Survey work along the Fort Pickens Road has begun, and the primary work is projected begin in late October or early November.

At the Santa Rosa area, 7.58 miles of Highway 399, J. Earl Bowden Way, including the nine parking lots along the road, will receive an asphalt overlay. Parking lots will begin closing this weekend as the contract starts milling work. The primary work is expected to begin in October.

An asphalt overlay project is a common maintenance technique to extend the life of an asphalt roadway. The project normally consists of milling the existing top layer of asphalt, and then applying a new layer of asphalt approximately 1.5 to 2 inches thick.

The projects will extend the lifespan of both roads, improve striping, and in the case of the realigned section reduce the number of closures caused by storms. 

All roads will remain open during the projects; however, there will be single-lane closures and parking lot closures. All work should be completed in March 2017.

“Maintaining park roads, like all park facilities, is an important part of providing a safe and enjoyable experience for park visitors,” Park Superintendent Dan Brown said. “We appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience while we complete this work.”

Highway 399, J. Earl Bowden Way runs through the Santa Rosa Day Use Area, which is east of Pensacola Beach and features Opal Beach, one of the most popular beach locations within the park. The area is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset.

The Fort Pickens area features many amenities including a campground, fishing pier, beach access, and the historic fort and fortifications. The area is open daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Park entrance fees apply at Opal Beach and the Fort Pickens area. See more information at www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fees.htm