Gulf Shores is taking a fourth run at getting a federal grant to make some sweeping changes to help improve traffic flow and walkability on the State Route 59 bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The money will also fund improvements in the Waterway Village District on both sides of the canal.
Now called the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant program, it is dedicated to rail, transit and port projects. Gulf Shores previously applied for money in a similar program that was recently discontinued called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Discretionary Grant program. If approved, the city would have to come up with about $8 million of the total $23 million estimated cost for the project.
In the similar BUILD program, Congress has dedicated nearly $5.6 billion for nine rounds of investments to fund projects that have a significant local or regional impact. The project Gulf Shores is seeking funding for is called the Waterway Village Multimodal Access Project.
“This project is a network of roadway, intersection and pedestrian access improvements that will improve traffic conditions, enhance regional connectivity, create economic opportunities, improve vehicular and pedestrian safety and increase community resilience,” Environmental and Grants Coordinator Dan Bond told the council.
One of the main parts of the project will add a third southbound lane to State Route 59 from County Road 6 to Clubhouse Drive to improve capacity. Bond said during the design phase engineers will see if it’s feasible to bring that third lane as far south as Fort Morgan Road.
“State Highway 59 is the main traffic artery from I-10 to the economic centers of Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in Baldwin County, and traffic congestion is a growing problem in the region,” Bond said. “It will improve traffic conditions on the north and south sides of the Holmes Bridge and coordinate access with the new state bridge across the ICW. The project will also improve traffic flow and access to the Jack Edwards Airport and the Foley Beach Express and provide alternate routes for emergency vehicles.”
The city also hopes to add a pedestrian bridge across the ICW where the cantilevered bridge was located before the current bridge was built.
“A new pedestrian bridge across the ICW would connect the north and south Waterway Village areas, adding pedestrian improvements and complete streets throughout the Waterway Village District,” Bond said.
The total project cost is estimated at $23 million with the federal share from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant program estimated at $15 million and city’s total match estimated at $8 million, which consists of projects already in the city’s 10-year capital plan. Those include $4.6 million for County Road 6 West, which would be a widening project to accommodate several new subdivisions in the area.
Another $3.4 million is planned to be spent on a new road to the planned city medical facility and its intersections on State Route 59 and Cotton Creek Drive or County Road 4.
“Grants will likely be awarded in Fall 2019, with final agreements executed in the spring of 2020,” Bond said. “Spending would likely begin on engineering and design in 2020, with construction starting in 2021. It is estimated the project will take five years to complete construction, with all work completed by 2026.”
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