No Canal Rd. lane closures on weekends thru summer
By John Mullen
The Alabama Department of Transportation project to widen Canal Road to five lanes has been ongoing all year, and while a brief period allowed for all five lanes to open early in the summer, work began on the south side in late June, closing a section of the outside eastbound lane.
But the Orange Beach City Council approved a plan to help alleviate backups on weekends.
“The way that this project had been bid, we were going to have one eastbound lane and two westbound lanes,” Community Development Director Kit Alexander explained during the OB City Council meeting on July 7.
“And in response to a request from the mayor’s office, (ALDOT contractor) John G. Walton developed a plan to be able to have two eastbound lanes and two westbound lanes on the weekends in response to the amount of traffic that we’re seeing coming into town.”
The plan, which was approved by resolution, allows for temporary asphalt wedging to be put into place on the southside shoulder prior to each weekend through early August, in order to provide safe driving conditions and allow for the opening of the second eastbound lane during the busiest time at the beach.
Since it was not budgeted as part of the ALDOT project, the cost of the temporary wedging, up to a total amount not to exceed $54,920 ($2,746 per day with a maximum of 20 days of asphalt placement/removal prior to August 12th), was in the city’s hands.
“It is a tough balancing act, an extremely tough balancing act, moving traffic and accommodating everybody that lives here in every way, getting into and out of traffic,” Mayor Kennon said while discussing the importance of the resolution.
“It is just very difficult. We’re trying our best, every one of us, working together to manage and move traffic as the No. 1 priority. It is the No. 1 priority for our police department, our Public Works, our contractors. It’s got to move traffic or we won’t get anywhere.”
Alexander said she wanted to express her appreciation of Scott Appleton from John G. Walton Construction Company, Inc., who was at the meeting.
“He has been very responsive – clearly showed himself to be an advocate for the City of Orange Beach – and when we make a request he has shown that he makes things happen in response to the needs that we have as a community,” Alexander said. “And I just wanted to recognize him and express our appreciation.”
Mayor Kennon added that the city would not have had five lanes open as soon as it did, if it wasn’t for Appleton. By contract, that fifth lane wasn’t supposed to be open until the fall.
“But we asked Scott, we started talking, he jumped on it, got ALDOT involved and worked out a way to get five lanes,” Mayor Kennon said. “So thank you, that’s a big, big deal to everybody.”
Looking at the overall Canal Road widening project that is scheduled to be completed in December, the mayor and council urged residents and visitors to heed the 40 mph speed limit in the work zone.
“These guys are out there working hard trying to make life better for us,” Councilman Jerry Johnson said. “They don’t need to see vehicles going by 55-60 miles an hour, so please obey the speed limit.”
Orange Beach Police are strictly enforcing the speed limit to help keep the construction workers safe.
“We are writing tickets probably more so than we ever had on the five lanes because of the speed limit,” Mayor Kennon said. “We’ve got to slow everybody down because it’s not Talladega.”
$900K for sidewalk from Undertow to Wharf
During its June combined regular and work sessions, Orange Beach City Council announced plans to spend $900,000 to construct a sidewalk from Oak Street west of the Undertow shopping plaza to Wharf Parkway East in order to provide neighborhood connectivity to the newly constructed Orange Beach Middle and High Schools. A state grant will likely fund about $400,000 of that project.
Easing traffic headaches at The Commons
The council also discussed working on the entrance to The Commons on Canal Road to ease traffic headaches. The entrance is close to the Alabama 161 intersection and is hard to turn out off in either direction during the busy summer season.
“We want to expand that entrance there at Cactus Cantina to three lanes because it is a nightmare right now and it’s really hindering our ability to move traffic to the east and south,” Mayor Kennon said.
One move under consideration is making the right turn lane longer to increase the volume and flow of traffic in that area.
“They’re going to do a private-public partnership with us to do that,” Kennon said. “We’re currently working with the engineering for a right deceleration lane starting somewhere in the neighborhood of Pep Boys to move the traffic out of that southbound lane so that it won’t be stopped.”
Other City Council Decisions
• Awarded the bid for public works building fire Sprinkler System to A1 Fire Protection for about $80,000.
• Authorized a contract with Pete Rancont for baseball coaching services for $3,400 a month made in three monthly payments per invoices submitted by Rancont. It will be paid for through the Expect Excellence afterschool and summer camp program.
• Authorized a contract with Alex Huffman for golf instruction services. Huffman’s contract is for one year and includes using the city’s golf facilities to conduct private lessons. In return, Huffman will provide at least 20 hours of golf instruction to the Expect Excellence program and the public schools in Orange Beach at no charge.
• Passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a Memorandum of Agreement with the Gulf State Park for lifeguard services.
• Held a public hearing and first reading for an amendment to the Planned Unit Development of Beach Village. It will have 69 cottage lots west of Tannin. The council suspended the rules and voted unanimously to allow the modification.
• Approved a restaurant retail liquor license application for Fresh Off the Boat now operating a restaurant in San Roc Cay in the former SALT location.
• Approved a retail beer (off-premises only) and retail table wine (off-premises only) liquor license application for The Pantry at the Wharf.
• Passed a resolution declaring a 1998 GMC Sierra 3500 pickup truck owned by the City of Orange Beach as surplus and unneeded and authorizing the donation of said property to the Town of Summerdale.
• Passed a resolution awarding the bid for the Public Works fuel station.
• Set a public hearing of July 21 on the summer Salt planned unit development modification. It is located behind Doc’s Seafood and Steaks and adjacent to Live Bait. This is phase one which is planning to have 54 single-family residential lots and 58 cottage lots.