The "Open" Road

By: Jennifer Ryan
By: Jennifer Ryan

Highway 98 has been the subject of controversy for many years now. Tourists and locals love its proximity to the coast, but safety and county officials don't love its frail nature when a tropical storm hits.

During Hurricane Dennis waves and wind tore up a 15-mile stretch, making it impassable to all motorists. Eleven days later it's back in tact. All it took was $10 million, 100 dump trucks and a lot of elbow grease.

Jackie Barber, General Manager of C.W. Roberts says, "We thought it was next to impossible, but we took on a challenge."

And C. W. Roberts pulled it off three days early, an amazing feat that left commuters elated because the detour took motorists through a forest. It's a bumpy ride that takes twice the time.

Donnie Nichols says, "We had to go through the woods, our hunting woods."

The grievance paid off. Highway 98 has been pieced back together for now, but its location remains a controversy.

Jean Moyle, a tourist, says, "I like Highway 98. It's more relaxing than the interstate."

It hugs the coast and winds through fishing villages, but it also poses a danger, especially during tumultuous weather.

Cheryl Sanders, Franklin County Commissioner, says, "We need to look at alternative sights. Whether we will or not, that's something for the future, but this brings it more in the mind than what it would be in the past."

Move it inland or build barriers of protection, county officials have much to consider.

Sanders says Franklin County commissioners will address the issue of possibly moving highway 98 in the upcoming weeks, but she says it will take a major move by the state to make it happen.

As to whether all vehicles may drive on the road now, there is a restriction on heavy trucks. They must still follow the detour, but cars and light trucks are allowed and they must slow their speed of only 45 mph.


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