Gulf Shores unveils plans for pedestrian bridge over Intracoastal Waterway
By John Mullen
Mayor Robert Craft was heading into town on State Route 59 for a 4 p.m. Waterway Multi-Modal Access Project public meeting when he ran into one of the reasons for the meeting.
“If you were coming from the north to Gulf Shores today and saw ALDOT working on one of the lanes of our two lanes coming south you know what the problem is,” Craft said. “I was coming from Fairhope and it took me an hour to get from County Road 10 over the bridge to get here. I was worried I wasn’t going to make it.”
City councilmembers, staffers and representatives from Volkert Engineering met with residents at the Erie Meyer Civic Center on Feb. 25 to get input from citizens on three projects Volkert is designing for the city. The funding is coming from a federal BUILD or the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development transportation discretionary grant program. It is funded by $5.6 billion set aside by Congress for a nine-rounds of investments to fund local and regional projects.
The city will get $14.4 million in money from the grant and will come up with about $8 million in matching money or in-kind services with total project costs at about $22.4 million. This will come from projects already in the city’s 10-year capital plan including $4.6 million to widen County Road 6 west where several large subdivisions are planned. The city is also planning on spending $3.4 million for a road to South Baldwin’s freestanding emergency room with entrances from State Route 59 on the west and County Road 4 on the north. Construction is underway on the new ER.
Citizens were able to express their concerns and opinions about the project during the Feb. 25 meeting and can still submit those online through March 25 by visiting the city’s website at gulfshoresal.gov.
The three projects involve State Route 59 from Coastal Gateway Boulevard or the former County Road 8 south to Fort Morgan Road, County Road 6 from State Route 59 to the Gulf Shores Sportsplex and the construction of a pedestrian overpass across the Intracoastal Waterway at the 90-degree turn at East Second Street and Canal Road.
Volkert said the initial study and design phase will include several phases and grant requirements call for the design completed and construction started by August with the target completion of all three projects of summer 2026.
“There are a lot of impacts and things from the environmental and social side that we’ll have to look at in our studies,” Josh Newman of Volkert said in a video presentation at the meeting.
Those areas are:
• Land use and required right-of-way
• Community cohesion
•Visual or aesthetic impacts
• Environmental and justice and title VI including, noise, air and hazardous materials
• Historic properties, structures, archaeological sites and districts
• Parks and recreation areas
• Water quality, wetlands and streams, navigable waterways, floodplains and floodways, ccoastal zone
• Threatened and endangered species, wildlife habitat and vegetation, wildlife and waterfowl refuges
Hwy. 59 Improvements
Craft said the improvements in this part of the project are sorely needed.
“The capacity of 59 is truly a problem,” Craft said. “This grant is focused on adding a third lane south from Coastal Gateway Boulevard which was County Road 8 all the way to Fort Morgan Road. And adding additional improvements as we work our way south.”
Part of this project will take the now open right-hand lane and it will be used to make the southbound bridge a three-lane roadway.
The city is asking for your input on the project through the end of the month.
For a link to a survey, click here.Here ya go, art attached, still trying to get one more piece of art of the overall project.
“When you get further south and you get to the bridge with a third lane south all the way down from Coastal Gateway going over the bridge,” Craft said. “So, when you go over the bridge you take up the pedestrian and bicycle lane. That’s the third lane. So, when it goes over there, we do not have pedestrian and bicycle access over the bridge.”
Losing that lane makes the second part of the project necessary.
With the access for pedestrians and bicycles taken away for the bridge’s third lane, this will provide that access in a safer alternative.
“We’ll be building a free-standing pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the Intracoastal to get that off the bridge,” Craft said. “Therefore, at the end of Second Street which is 180 and a 90-degree turn on the south side and on the north side between the marina on the east and LuLu’s and old 59. For those of us that grew up here and remember that’s where the old drawbridge was.”
Included in this plan are sweeping ramps and two gathering places at the foot of the bridge on both sides of the waterway.
“The Waterway Village pedestrian bridge is essential to provide pedestrian and bicycle connectivity,” Volkert’s Drew Davis said. “This bridge will include a main span over the Intracoastal Waterway and two pedestrian plazas, one on the north and one on the south of the waterway. Within the pedestrian plazas there will be a series of ramps and an elevator so that all users can easily take advantage of the connectivity across the canal.”
Davis said the work on this part of the project won’t stop there but continue north to the new South Baldwin ER.
“Pedestrian improvements will also extend north along East Second Street to the medical village that is currently under construction as well as south along East Second Street to East 20th Avenue,” Davis said.
An ancillary part of this project, but not included in the BUILD grant money or project, will be to reroute Canal Road south of the neighborhood to avoid the 90-degree turn. Restore Act money will help fund this project.
“Canal Road realignment project is in the planning phase to reduce impacts on the neighborhood and improve traffic efficiency,” Jay Dickson of Volkert said.
County Road 6 Improvements
The scope of work for this project is just from State Route 59 to the entrance of the Sportsplex.
“County Road 6, there’ll be improvements at the intersection allowing new signal opportunities so there’s dual left-hand turns,” Craft said. “You don’t have to wait for phases where one turns then the other turns. It’ll be a much quicker intersection. We’ll be improving the road. It won’t be four lanes all the way. It will be divided and improved to two initially to get to the Sportsplex. That’ll be the last thing done within the BUILD grant.”
Pictured: A conceptual drawing of a bicycle-pedestrian bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway between Tacky Jack’s and Big Beach Brewery.Gulf Shores unveils plans for pedestrian bridge over Intracoastal Waterway