On Wednesday the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (ESMPO) approved a resolution to fund a $3.2 million adaptive traffic signal system in hopes of easing traffic woes on one of the busiest roads in the area. The design phase of the project — the first task funded by the MPO since its creation in 2012 — will begin soon and will take an estimated six months to complete, and construction on the project planned to kick off in 2016.
Once completed, the new signal system will include 27 intersections from Wayside Drive at Spanish Fort Boulevard, south on U.S. 98 in Daphne to Baldwin County Road 44 in Fairhope.
Included in the project’s $3,230,481 price tag is $231,720 for the design phase, which will be handled by Birmingham-based Sain and Associates. The system will use Southern Light fiber optics, which will be installed at a cost of $298,761 and construction will cost approximately $2.7 million.
The ESMPO will pay $2.58 million, with ALDOT contributing $586,344, Fairhope $31,726, Daphne $42,154 and Spanish Fort $6,026.40. The Eastern Shore municipalities will also have a recurring yearly fiber lease of $10,000 in Fairhope, $9,035 in Daphne and $1,155 in Spanish Fort.
The MPO has accumulated $3.6 million in funds since 2012 and has three years to use $3 million in annual federal funds. This project will be funded mainly with money from the 2013 fiscal year.
Interim ESMPO Coordinator Sarah Hart said she planned to call Sain and Associates as soon as Wednesday’s meeting was over to get the project started. Hart, the former assistant coordinator, took over when Matthew Brown transferred to a design engineer position with the Baldwin County highway department.
“This has been a long, long time coming and we are very excited to get moving,” she said. “We’ll be working with ALDOT as soon as we can to hit the ground running.”
“I’m thankful we are going to finally do something for Highway 98,” Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant, the MPO Policy Board chairman, said. “I would let the public know, you will be waiting a little bit longer to come out on 98, so there is a trade off. But to move people all the way across the Eastern Shore, I think this project will help in the long run.”
Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan echoed Kant’s enthusiasm about getting the ESMPO’s first major project off the ground.
“I’m glad this organization finally has a project moving forward,” McMillan said. “It is encouraging, particularly with the traffic signal issues we have. Glad to see we are making progress.”
Hart’s interim tag could be removed as early as July 28, when the county’s job posting closes. While she has not been officially named the permanent coordinator, the ESMPO Policy Board members congratulated her for the promotion during time designated for board member comments.
“I want to welcome Sarah in her official capacity now,” Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood said. “I know she’s run some of these meetings in the past and has proven she is capable.”