At least two options for a road to bypass a troublesome 90-degree turn in Gulf Shores go south of a neighborhood framed by that same turn, and call for building a road through Gulf State Park.
City officials said at a Nov. 7 meeting with residents from the neighborhood that while they were at first concerned about getting permission to use state park land, they received recent assurances the state was onboard.
“Obviously, from the last meeting there were lots of comments about ‘why do you have to go through the neighborhood?’” Mayor Robert Craft said. “‘Why can’t you go around it?’ We were fortunate to have a conversation with Chris Blankenship, the head of the state park and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He agreed that the few little areas you see on options four and seven where we do have to skirt through the green area on the map. It is in the state park and he is in support of that and he will help us make that happen.”
Craft said during the last public meeting on the Canal Road corridor those assurances from the state weren’t yet in place.
“That’s why we have alternatives tonight that we didn’t know we had the last time we were here,” Craft said. “When you look at that you will see that we are able to go completely around instead of disrupting the neighborhood. We will be able to go around it and take all this potential school traffic away from the community. I mention all that because that was not something we expected to be able to get, but we have.”
An agreement from a lawsuit settlement between an environmental group and the state over the Gulf State Park Project says no new roads can be built in Gulf State Park. But the language of the lawsuit specifically says “to not build a north-south connector road through Gulf State Park.” The two snippets of road that would use state park land are on the very northern edge just south of the neighborhood.
“That’s why we hug the northern edge, to minimize effects on the state park and on the wetlands,” Gulf Shores Environmental and Grants Coordinator Dan Bond said.
The project is partly being paid for with a $21.7 million Restore Act grant, and while the two southerly routes seem the most popular, other options are still on the table. One includes cutting through the neighborhood on East Third Street and adding two roundabouts before a western turnover to State Route 180 a few blocks south of the 90-degree turn.
“It’s important to be here to give us your thoughts and input and this is a collective decision,” Craft said. “There’s no decision been made yet.”
City and Volkert Engineering officials said input from the Nov. 7 meeting would be used to narrow down a single route and it would be presented in another public meeting in the winter. After a year of design work, actual construction on the chosen route wouldn’t likely begin until 2021.
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