Fourth time’s the charm?
After three tries through two different federal grant programs, Gulf Shores was finally awarded $14.4 million to help pay for improvements on State Route 59 as well as in the city’s Waterway Village District on both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway.
“We will be putting the third southbound lane on the bridge,” Mayor Robert Craft said at a Nov. 7 meeting on Canal Road. “We know it will start at [County Road] 4 and the third lane will go to at least Clubhouse [Drive]. We’re working to expand that to go from [County Road] 6 all the way to Fort Morgan Road, with the third lane to get traffic in and out better that way.”
The first two years the city applied for the federal money it was under the old Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program. It expired after the city had two applications denied and was replaced by the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation discretionary grant program. It is funded by $5.6 million set aside by Congress for nine rounds of investments to fund local and regional projects.
Craft said the project will take pedestrian and bicycle traffic off of the current State Route 59 bridge over the waterway, but the city hopes to pay for a pedestrian bridge east of the current bridge at the site of the old swing bridge. City Environment and Grants Coordinator Dan Bond said the bridge would have to be at least 72 feet above the water.
“We have to deal with how do pedestrians and bicycles get across the canal,” Craft said. “Part of this funding we’ve got the money to explore and build a freestanding pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will have an elevator up, a walkway over and an elevator down. It will leave on the south side on Highway 180 where there is that 90-degree turn.”
This will allow the city to further develop the east and west sides of the Waterway Village District, which is split by the turn that is currently the main route in and out of the city for east-west travelers.
“The 90-degree turn will go away and that road will be discontinued back to 24th Avenue,” Craft said. “That road will no longer be there. So we now are able to accomplish the walking district and we can get from one side of the canal to the other safely without having to get on that bridge. That is the big news and that will allow the opportunity for all of us who live on this side of town to be able to have the opportunity to get on the bridge on your bike or walk.”
Gulf Shores must come up with about $8 million in matching money or in-kind services, with total project costs estimated 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 its planned freestanding emergency room with entrances from State Route 59 and County Road 4.
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