With 35 years of experience helping victims of car accidents in Panama City, Attorney Wes Pittman understands that transportation safety is a joint effort. Keeping Panama City roads safe requires the cooperation of all drivers, the attention of other roadway users such as pedestrians and cyclists, and the involvement of government and regulatory bodies, especially at the community level.
Recently, John Alaghemand, Director of the Panama City Beach Community Redevelopment Agency ("CRA"), spoke with the News Herald about the CRA's plans for the city. He noted that the CRA is specifically targeting transportation issues rather than focusing, as most CRAs in other areas do, on improving buildings and properties. The plans for the next 30+ years include focusing on public transportation, improving bicycle and pedestrian safety, reducing traffic congestion, providing needed parking, and beautifying the area. Work will include the eight miles along Front Beach Road as well as the major roads connecting Front and Back Beach roads. The city has already purchased a site near Ripley's Believe It or Not for use as a parking garage and a transit system transfer station. Roadway improvement plans also include improvements to the stormwater system and moving all utility poles underground.
Alaghemand also spoke about a unique aspect of the CRA's plan, introducing a road design that includes multi-use lanes shared by bicycles and transit system vehicles. Other areas are watching the Beach CRA's progress, which is aimed at encouraging people to park shortly after arriving in the City and walk or use transit to get around while in the community. This element of the CRA's plan is key to achieving Alaghemand's vision of Front Beach Road in 30 years as an area filled with pedestrians, including transit and bicycle lanes and flower-filled medians.
In order to facilitate the group's goals, the CRA is focusing on different segments of the system over time. Projects on Churchwell Drive, Richard Jackson Boulevard, and South Thomas Drive are complete. In the upcoming year, the CRA will focus on improving Powell Adams Road and North Thomas Drive, plus installing Intelligent Traffic Systems ("ITS") to aid traffic flow. While the designs for the next segment are complete and the project is "shovel-ready," the CRA lacks needed funding to tackle the next phase of the project. The CRA's budget is tax-driven, and the decrease in property values has left it with a smaller budget than in prior years. According to Alaghemand, the CRA wants to save about $2.5 to $3 million annually in order to start the $17 million projects in segment two by 2016.
We believe in making Panama City Beach safe for all of our residents and visitors. We applaud the CRA's vision of a community where mass transit and individual transportation function together. We hope the CRA targets its limited funds in a way that makes safety a top, if not the top, priority.
Our firm serves the local region by advocating for accident victims in civil court. As a Panama City personal injury law firm, we help injured people recover compensation after the unexpected happens. Our job is to help victims get the money damages they need to move forward. We also believe this process helps send a message that Panama City and Panama City Beach are communities that value safety and will not tolerate negligent or wrongful behavior.