Gulf Shores seeks grants for $46.1 million in road projects

Gulf Shores seeks grants for $46.1 million in road projects
Improvements could include roundabouts at west end of Canal Rd.

By John Mullen
Gulf Shores announced plans to seek a new grant for road improvements north of the Intracoastal Waterway, work on Canal Road and more streetscape improvements in the Waterway Village district.
And, while it’s a new grant, the city is dusting off some old ideas in past applications for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grants. The new program is called Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD.
“We just went to Washington a few weeks ago and met with the federal department of transportation to talk about this new BUILD grant,” Mayor Robert Craft said. “They are familiar with us for three years of being in the TIGER grant process and being evaluated to the top levels of the TIGER grant application for a very similar project. It’s not like they don’t know who we are and what we are doing.”
The project would cost a total of $46.1 with $25.1 million coming from BUILD funds, $21.6 from RESTORE Act funds and the city will kick in $3.4 million to pay for the design costs of the projects.
“That would give us a lot more control over the design process with all these really complicated questions we need to consider and get community input on,” Grant Coordinator Dan Bond told the council. “It will also allow us to control the schedule and make sure we’re getting the documents done on time so we can get this thing completed by 2025.”
Past federal grant programs wouldn’t allow local governments to use other federal grants or funds toward matching or for the same projects. That rule was waived for RESTORE Act funds and projects.
“The RESTORE can be used to offset and as a leverage like a match,” Craft said. “The BUILD grant has no grant requirement. You don’t have to put any money in the game to be eligible. But in the decision of who gets awarded, that plays a lot on how much you have put in the game and how much further it can make the federal money go.”
Perhaps the most ambitious part of the project involves a walkway attached to the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway bridge. This would allow the southbound shoulder lane to be used for traffic and have three lanes of traffic flow on both sides of the bridge. This part of the project would cost $7 million.
Another part of the project includes improving roads in the Business and Aviation Park including connecting to the new spur road and bridge the state is working to build east of the airport. Those improvements would cost $3.4 million.
Improvements along Waterway Boulevard East south of the airport would cost the most at $12.9 million. This project would also connect to the new planned state road and also make improvements to East Second Street up to its intersection with Alabama 59.
In the same area, $2.8 million will be spent to allow better access to the planned medical building the city recently bought from Sacred Heart. It will include a new access to the building from County Road 4 to the north.
The roadway at 36th Avenue West will be improved and connected to a new road south that will connect with Waterway Boulevard West at a cost of $6 million. Plans are to eventually extend it north as well to County Road 6 to provide another alternative to Alabama 59.
On Canal Road east, improvements are planned from where the new state bridge is planned to East Second Street and could include some roundabouts to try and ease traffic flow around the 90-degree turn at Frith’s Bait Shop.
“We will be using existing right of ways, traffic circles to try basically spread some of that traffic flow out so it doesn’t get concentrated at that curve and the stop signs,” Bond said.
Streetscape improvements on both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge in Waterway Village will cost about $1.8 million. The deadline for applying is July 18.
“We’ve got it structured in a way, and I think positioned in a way, that we’ve got a good chance and it’s certainly worth trying,” Craft said. “This is not something that just suddenly appeared. It’s something we’ve been working on for a long time and it’s built around our Vision 2025 plan and how we can make our city better.”
In other action during the work session the council:
• Heard a recommendation from City Planner Andy Bauer to rename County Road 8 to Coastal Gateway Boulevard. Several properties along the road have been annexed into the city and last year the city took over maintenance of the road.
• Discussed a new ordinance to regulate the use of drones in the city limits.
• Discussed authorizing the police department to pursue funding from Homeland Security to pay for barriers, fences and jersey walls for special operations or events. to separate pedestrians and vehicular traffic. There is $1.8 million in grant money available and applications can be made for $10,000 to $50,000.
• Discussed a $73,000 contract with Volkert Associates to provide engineering and studies for a roadway through a 40-acre property recently donated to the city near the Trailside Subdivision on County Road 8. Additionally, the contract will cover a traffic impact study and warrant analysis requested by the County Commission as part of their approval process for the City’s proposed traffic signal at County Road 8 East and the Foley Beach Express.
• Considered a request from the Alabama Independent School Association to host its track and field state championships in 2019 and 2020. The city hosted the event the past two years.
Pictured: Map of proposed transportation improvements for Gulf Shores.