ALDOT also backs out of funding Canal Rd. bypass
Work on adding third southbound lane to Hwy. 59 will still start in June
By John Mullen
Frustration with the Alabama Department of Transportation was a common theme during the recent Gulf Shores town hall meeting. Besides the canceling of the third bridge project, ALDOT also backed off on funding support for a vital cog in three interconnected projects the city is looking to build by 2024.
If the city wants to add a third lane to southbound State Route 59, it will have to provide another safe pedestrian and bicycle access over the Intracoastal Waterway. A plan is in place to build that access as a freestanding bridge over the waterway near Tacky Jacks and Big Beach Brewing on the south and LuLu’s on the north.
But the big plaza and ADA friendly ramps will take up the vital 90-degree turn at Canal Road and East Second Street virtually cutting off one of two east-west connections between Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
The solution to that problem is a bypass around the Gulf Pines or Meyer Park neighborhood that ALDOT, Craft said, agreed to help fund.
“We have joint partnerships with ALDOT to build that road, Canal Road reroute, Craft said. “We had this road planned and it was going to be jointly funded by a RESTORE grant that the city got as well as with ALDOT’s participation. It was designed to go from Fort Morgan Road all the way back up to the new bridge or to the toll bridge if the new bridge wasn’t built. That’s come apart because ALDOT is not willing to now fund that road or help fund that road.”
The third southbound is going out to bid soon and the pedestrian bridge is in the design stage and awaiting word on permit applications from Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.
But the road that will skirt Gulf Pines to the south?
“It’s mandatory that we reroute this road because when we build (the pedestrian bridge) you can’t get around that corner anymore,” Craft said.
But there is no schedule on the design, bidding and construction of this final cog of these three vital projects.
“To be determined on where we are on that,” Craft said. “We have no timeframe to be able to talk about that because we just don’t know. We spent a lot of time with this neighborhood trying to let the neighborhood to give us input on where this road needs to go. We worked great with the state park to endorse allowing us to go through there.”
But no solid plan to execute this new bypass is in place. When construction begins on the pedestrian bridge a temporary bypass will be in place, Craft said.
Craft said the third southbound lane on Hwy. 59 will be built in two phases with the first phase going out for bid this summer. The first phase goes from Cypress Bend Drive or the Target entrance to Fort Morgan Road.
“It will help us getting over that bridge back and forth by adding a third lane,” Craft said. “The schedule on that is we will actually open our bids April 26 for phase one of this project. The design is complete, we’ll start construction in June of this year and end construction in August of 2024. The construction sequencing will begin with the utility work that will be in the right of ways and the utility work and that will take approximately six months and then we’ll have to phase over to start working on the roadway.”
Craft said work on moving utilities will be done in the day time but the actually road work will be done overnight when traffic is not as heavy.
“We’re only going to be working these crews at night,” Craft said “We won’t be working during the day but there will still be challenges in getting around.”
The second phase of the work from Target north to Coastal Gateway Boulevard will be managed by ALDOT, Craft said.
“Obviously, we can’t connect over the bridge until we finish our pedestrian bridge so we can relocate bicycles and pedestrians safely to another way to get across,” Craft said. “So, the next thing on the schedule for us to build is the pedestrian bridge at Waterway Village. It spans the Intracoastal in the location of the old drawbridge.”
The design for the span is expected to be finished this summer with hopes of starting construction this winter and completion by the winter of 2024. All of the plans are at the mercy of permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard which are notoriously slow in coming.