It will contain a little zig and a little zag, but when the Canal Road widening project in Orange Beach is completed, motorists will hardly notice the difference.
“The alignment shifts a little bit back and forth down through there,” said Brian Aaron, assistant southwest engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). “There’s things we had to dodge in regards to right of way or obstructions. You’ve got your full width down on that end for the most part. You’ve got to do a little bit of widening on the south end close to the 161 interchange. Some of it you are going to see full widening and some of it won’t see much at all.”
Two other major projects by the state in Baldwin County, a new bridge in Gulf Shores and the diverging diamond interchange at State Route 181 and Interstate 10 in the Daphne-Spanish Fort area, are also making progress.
In Orange Beach, the ALDOT project is concentrating on what will be added to the north side of the state highway and work is going as expected there, Aaron said.
“Everything’s going well and we’re happy with the progress contractors are able to make out there,” Aaron said. “We’re still on schedule and the public should continue to see what they’ve been seeing with regards to lane closures on the north side of 180 there as we get those widening efforts done all the way down past William Silvers [Parkway].”
Canal Road is already five lanes from the Foley Beach Express interchange to William Silvers, which is also the entrance to the Orange Beach Sportsplex, which is just under a mile away.
Several hundred feet of asphalt is already in place and preparations for more will get nearly half of the work for the north side completed in just a few weeks.
“He’s down to Gulf Bay, which puts us about halfway, maybe 40 percent on that one side, on the north side,” Aaron said.
That’s about 1.3 miles on the north side completed with about a mile left to finish. Crews will shift to the south side of the road this spring and utilize the new pavement to help move traffic through the construction zone.
“When we fully widen on that north side, we’ll actually move traffic over, we’ll keep the same amount of lanes and move traffic over so that he can start widening on the south side,” Aaron said. “The intent, what you see out there is to keep that maintained.”
When the busy season starts, the workday will shift to try and accommodate the huge tourist crowds.
“Once we get to summer, we’ll have to go to nighttime,” Aaron said. “Traffic’s too heavy down there to deal with the reduction in lanes that we’re having to do. Lane reduction will then be at night to minimize its impact.”
A proposed bypass of the Canal Road and State Route 161 interchange is still on the back burner. It would leave Canal Road in the area near Big Mike’s Steakhouse and connect with State Route 161 south of McDonald’s.
“Right now, we’re focusing on getting the five lanes in,” Aaron said. “We hope to start the design on that and get that kicked off in the spring. Once we actually get the go-ahead and get all the agreements in place to start that, design work will commence. That’s not anything that’s currently ongoing. It’s probably a springtime kickoff.”
The route contains some wetland issues that must be resolved and there are also some concrete poles carrying electric transmission wires along the right-of-way through there.
There’s still been no movement on getting the final go-ahead for a third bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway between the State Route 59 bridge in Gulf Shores and the Foley Beach Express bridge in Orange Beach. Aaron said everything is in place to begin except for federal permits.
“We are currently still waiting on [Army] Corps [of Engineers] permits and the Coast Guard permit,” Aaron said. “We’re hoping over the next two to four weeks we’re being told we should have those, so that’s good news. I think they are going through their review at this time, so we’re happy to hear that. Recently we were told by the end of the year, but I’m sure the holidays may delay that a little bit.”
He hopes to open bids on the bridge project in February. Those would be for the southern portion that includes the bridge. The north end of the project is still in the property acquisition phase and that roadway will be bid separately.
“We still have a couple of tracts on the north section or north of County Road 4,” Aaron said. “We’re still working through that right-of-way acquisition on that. The projects are actually two separate projects. County Road 4 and south and County Road 4, north. As soon as we get everything in place and the director says go, we could get the bridge and that portion of that project started sooner than the north side.”
Work has been completed on widening of the ramps on and off the interstate and now the project will concentrate on State Route 181 approaches to I-10.
“That first and second week of January we’ll start to see more consistent lane closures,” Aaron said. “The contractor should be ready at that point to really start his widening efforts along 181 and getting that third lane in between 90 and the interstate going northbound. That’s going to take a lane closure to do that work. And then there’s some widening on the southbound side between McDonald’s and Timbercreek that’s got to be done so there will be some lane closures there as well.”
Work on the project was shut down during the holiday shopping season but Aaron said there will be more traffic impact when the resumes.
“After we get into the meat and potatoes of what’s got to be done to make that configuration works,” Aaron said.
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