Baldwin County officials could find out Aug. 28 if the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will help pay another $1.8 million for a planned widening of County Road 64.
In 2018, the MPO authorized a grant of about $535,000 for the design of the expansion in an 80-20 match with the county paying about $107,000. The work would go from Alabama 181 to the new Belforest Elementary School under construction on County Road 54. A roundabout is planned along the route at CR 64 and Austin/Rigsby Road.
“As y’all well know there’s a lot going on out there, a lot of development, there’s a new school that’s being built there at County Road 54 East,” County Highway Director Joey Nunnally said. “The conceptual design was to widen this section of County Road 64 to a three-lane.”
For the utility-moving phase, the county will have to have matching funds of $374,000 with the $1.8 million from MPO if that gains approval. Also, on Aug. 28, the county is asking for a $300,000 grant to purchase rights of way along the 1.6-mile stretch of the road with the county contributing a $60,000 match.
“Total construction money to do this, you’re probably looking at about $6 million, so we’re just trying to piecemeal this together,” Nunnally said. “So, that funding request will go before the MPO board I think next week for a vote, hopefully.”
Nunnally said the MPO recently received new funding after it agreed to the design grant and the county hopes it can get more parts of the CR 64 project funded.
“Since all that happened, the MPO actually got allocated some more money so I kind of wanted to tap into that as well and try to get the right of way and utility phases funded through the MPO as well,” Nunnally said. “When everything is done from design, right of way and utility relocation standpoint, we’ll go ahead and go after some construction money.”
The roadway is already at capacity and the new school on the east end of the project is just going to add more traffic.
“We’ve got a pretty good accident rate right there and we’ve reduced the speed limits to try and help that,” Nunnally said. “It’s sorely needed.”
County Commissioner Jeb Ball said the growth in the area warrants the new work to handle the traffic.
“I can tell you that’s one project I’m excited about,” Ball said. “That’s going to be well-needed in that part of the county and will hopefully alleviate some of that congestion on County Road 64.”
Another commissioner, Joe Davis, said the project will be needed now and will also help for the coming future growth.
“This is a part of where we will be next,” Davis said. “We’ve got to look at today’s problems but we also have to look at how they impact down the road. We’re very fortunate to have an organization like the MPO to be able to marshal resources to be able to do these things. We would eventually try to figure out a way to do it, but this way it’s done on the front end.”
Draft TIP open for public comment
In other business, the Eastern Shore MPO recently provided copies of its draft 2020 – 2023 Transportation Improvement Project (TIP) at public locations throughout Baldwin County and will host two meetings to accept final public comments Tuesday, Sept. 10 at Spanish Fort City Hall, from 5 to 7 p.m., and Sept. 17 at the Fairhope Satellite Courthouse, from 5 to 7 p.m. The MPO Policy Board will likely consider adopting the TIP at a meeting scheduled Wednesday, Sept. 25.
In addition to Baldwin County’s $832 million portion of the Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project, the TIP provides $8.5 million for widening State Route 181 from County Road 32 south to U.S. 98, a distance of 3.63 miles. The state is currently working on a project to widen SR 181 between Milton Jones Road and State Route 104, which is scheduled for completion next year. The stretch between SR 104 and CR 32 was funded in previous plans, but has not yet gotten underway.
The TIP also commits $6.1 million for interstate maintenance and bridge projects, $1.9 million for a roundabout at the intersection of County Roads 13 and 44, which is labeled as av“safety project.”
The draft TIP is also available online at easternshorempo.org. Additional information may be obtained by contacting MPO Coordinator Sarah Hart Sislak by phone at 251-990-4643 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gabriel Tynes contributed to this report.
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