Fix for Canal Rd. East traffic woes will be painful
By John Mullen
Make no mistake about it, a fix for the traffic woes on east Canal Road is going to be a painful one.
The current problems from State Route 161 east are caused by increased volume, drivers making risky maneuvers trying to get to a popular restaurant and stemmed flow caused by drivers turning left into businesses, the library, the art center, the park and neighborhoods.
“This is going to be a nightmare,” Mayor Tony Kennon said at a recent council meeting. “I give everybody fair warning. It’s a yearlong project, it’s cut me now or cut me later. We’re either going to have to start it and do it this summer and be finished by Memorial Day of next summer or defer this summer and go through next summer. I think we have decided it needs to be done.”
Community Development Director Kit Alexander, who also lives in East Orange Beach and will be directly affected by the construction chaos, agrees. But she can also see the light at the end of the tunnel. The city hopes to start the RESTORE Act funded project this spring and include a city-funded 10-foot-wide golf cart path on the north side from Callaway Drive to Wilson Boulevard.
Also in the works, but being delayed until the widening of Canal Road west of State Route 161 is complete is another 10-foot-wide sidewalk from Oak Street just west of the Undertow strip mall to William Silvers Parkway or the entrance to the city’s Sportsplex. It also includes extending the it from the Sportsplex to The Wharf.
“It’s going to be difficult for the people who use east Canal Road but it’s so necessary,” Alexander said. “Unfortunately, it’s a year-long project maybe more than a year so there’s no way we can avoid the summer months. It’s either going to be this summer or next summer. We just want to get it in place as soon as possible.”
The new turn lane will add several advantages for motorist who use the road and visitors trying to get to Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar can drive to a new roundabout in the area of the arts center to loop back west to get to the “best fried shrimp in the entire civilized world.”
“We’re just hoping that it’s going to solve some traffic issues that are occurring on Canal Road just east of 161,” Alexander said. “We have a lot of movement of traffic to avoid those delineators and this will help with that traffic movement of people doing movements to get to the Doc’s restaurant that is causing problems. In addition, we really are looking forward to that additional dual turn lane helping people to get out of their neighborhoods onto Canal Road. It’s been very difficult for people to get onto Canal Road without that third lane. We think that will help people to get both on and off of Canal Road.”
There are still some procedural hoops to jump through to get the grant money but the preplanning is almost complete.
“We’re at the very tail end of engineering and design,” Alexander said. “Primarily what we’re doing is trying to get all of the documents together as required by the RESTORE Act funding. We have to submit quite a bit of documents in order to do our final submittal to the RESTORE federal council to get the funding approved. We got the preliminary, they set aside the funds but now we’ve got to get the actual grant approval from the Federal RESTORE Council.
“A lot of it depends on the Federal RESTORE Council but we’re hoping to start in the next two or three months.”
The grant for the project from RESTORE funds is for about $1.8 million, Alexander said. The city will pay for the sidewalk but included it in the project to save money.
“We added it to the project because we didn’t want to have to bid a separate project and pay for mobilization costs so we added it into this project even though it’s not covered by the RESTORE funds,” Alexander said. “The sidewalk is going to be a two-phase project. The first phase is from 161 to Wilson and then a later phase is from Wilson to Bear Point. We’ll know better how much everything is going to cost once its bid because construction prices are kind of elevated right now.”
Canal Rd. West Sidewalk
Grant money will also play a big part in this project for a sidewalk from Oak Street to The Wharf.
“We received just short of $400,000 of Transportation Alternatives Program grant funds to help pay for the sidewalk,” Alexander said. “We just received the ALDOT permit for the work within the Canal Road right-of-way. We still need to work out utility relocations and whether there are needed construction easements. ALDOT will not want us to perform this work until the Canal Road widening project is completed. We probably won’t be able to begin construction until middle to late fall.”
Alexander said the entire project will include the sidewalk segment from William Silvers to East Wharf Parkway but the grant money is paying for just the William Silvers to Oak Street segment.
During the regular session, Council:
• Approved a liquor license for Maggie’s Bottle and Tail at the Cosmo’s Courtyard.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of a Portable Generator for the Utilities Department through Sourcewell in the amount of $80,126.
• Passed a resolution authorizing execution of Change Order No. 3 with E-J Builders, Inc., to regrade the outfields of the Baseball and Softball Complex in an amount not to exceed $116,000.
• Passed a resolution authorizing execution of a professional services agreement with Pete Rancont for baseball coaching services.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the sole source purchase of In-Car Camera Systems from Watchguard Video for the Police Department for $28,850.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of Vehicle Emergency Equipment for the Police Department from State Bid in the amount of $41,556.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the sole source purchase of Traffic Monitoring Cameras from ProTecVideo, LLC, for the Police Department in the amount of $59,000.
• Passed a resolution authorizing execution of a Cooperative Agreement with the Gulf Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc., for grant funding for the “ReTree OB” Initiative.
• Passed a resolution authorizing execution of a performance contract with Motor Sports Productions, Inc., for the “Bama Coast Cruise” event April 22-24. The city will perform in-kind services.
• Passed a resolution declaring a 90-day moratorium on the issuance of business licenses for charters and delivery of rental watercrafts in public access areas.
In work session, Council discussed:
• A resolution appropriating funds to the Makos Academics, Arts & Athletics Club in the amount of $121,630. The bulk of the request, about $113,000, went to the football ($62,000) and volleyball ($31,000) teams and another $12,000 was requested by Athletic Director Chase Smith for a nutrition program.
• Setting up a public hearing date for consideration of a conditional use permit for Liberty Linen Warehouse and boat/RV storage to be located at 26953 Canal Road.
• Appointing a voting delegate and alternates for the Alabama League of Municipalities Annual Convention to be in Huntsville, May 12-15.
• Adopting the 2020 Baldwin County Hazard Mitigation Plan after it has gone through the public hearing process. FEMA requires the plan be updated every five years.
• A request for vacation of right-of-way located within the Giles Canal Pines Subdivision
Complaints about loud trucks from Orange Beach Invasion numerous
Lots of trucks came to March’s Orange Beach Invasion Car Show at The Wharf and some were noisy and loud with the exhaust and music. Complaints among residents in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores about modified trucks cruising their neighborhoods in jacked up trucks with altered exhaust pipes were numerous.
Orange Beach is working with The Wharf to make changes in The Invasion show which would include more tickets for speeding and equipment violations.
“We’ve called and I’ve talked with The Wharf management,” Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said. “We’re going to sit down and talk about next year and see if we can’t bring some type of control to this event. We don’t want to stifle it to the point it dies but we do want to control it so we don’t have some of the chaos we had this weekend.
“We’re going to start being extremely strict about these vehicles with these loud mufflers,” Kennon said. “There’s no excuse for me to have to listen to that as an old grumpy folk and I think most people that live here don’t want to hear it. We’re also going to crack down on littering, we’re going to crack down on being in the back of a truck acting a fool, also cracking down on elevated trucks with headlights that are too high and get in your rearview mirror, squatted trucks.”
The mayor said this stepped-up enforcement won’t happen just when the show returns but said it is a year-round problem and he wants to police department to ramp up enforcement starting now.
“We’re going to start cracking down on speeding,” Kennon said. “The number of people in town is huge and speeding in neighborhoods is really out of control. If you’re speeding in neighborhoods, we are going to start writing real tickets. We have got to slow folks down.”
Gulf Shores Police issued more than 80 citations for excessive noise and other modifications that are illegal.