One of the top priorities of the Navarre Beach Chamber of Commerce as far back as the late 1960s and early 1970s was the expansion of State Road 87 from two to four lanes.

 

“Here we are, more than 45 years later and just now it’s almost complete,” said Bart Pullum, owner of Pullum Real Estate Group. “Santa Rosa County residents have been yelling and screaming to get it done. It took a long time but (the Florida Department of Transportation) has done a great job.”

The final stage of the road project is scheduled for completion in a little more than eight weeks after starting in October 2015. Just the 4.2-mile stretch from two miles south of the Yellow River north to Hickory Hammock Road in East Milton cost $29.7 million.  It included an additional two-lane bridge over the Yellow River.

Ian Satter, the DOT spokesman for Northwest Florida, said the additional lanes on SR 87 are part of a larger transportation network of hurricane evacuation routes that connect the Gulf Coast to the Alabama border. The other four-lane highways running north to help coastal residents get out of harm’s way include State Road 77 and U.S. Highway 231 in Panama City, and U.S. Highway 331 in South Walton County.

“These are important evacuation routes,” Satter said. “It gets people away from the coast as quickly as they can.”

Pullum has “scary” memories of being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic as thousands of residents fled to escape the wrath of Hurricane Opal in October 1995.

“We wouldn’t have that problem now,” Pullum said.

Construction workers have their hands full to finish the project in June. Sr 87 needs some resurfacing, striping and guard rails near the Yellow River.

Besides hurricane safety, Santa Rosa County Engineer Roger Blaylock said the wider stretch he drives three or four times a week offers a safer and more pleasant drive.

Before the widening, the FDOT removed a dangerous S-shaped curve near the Yellow River that led to more than two dozen traffic fatalities over the years. It served as an impetus to make SR 87 four lanes.

Blaylock said the four-lane road means avoiding white-knuckling the steering wheel, not only for him but the growing number of residents and tourists who travel to visit Northwest Florida’s stretch of white sandy beaches.

“It’s very convenient and a lot less stressful than two lanes,” he said.