By John Mullen
A new Wolf Bay bridge would provide a traffic relief valve for Orange Beach during its bustling tourist season. But Mayor Tony Kennon says it will bring much more than that to the town.
“The goal is this is an economic development project and I want us to move forward and to grow,” Kennon said.
On Dec. 5, the Orange Beach City Council will consider paying more than $242,000 to Burk-Kleinpeter for environmental studies, permitting and conceptual design for the construction of a Wolf Bay bridge. The proposal was discussed during a Nov. 14 work session.
In a preceding regular council meeting the same day, Orange Beach voted to pay Burk-Kleinpeter more than $68,000 for design, construction engineering and inspection services for the widening of Canal Road from Alabama 161 to Wilson Boulevard.
The design could include a roundabout in front of the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach. The city wants to add a center turn lane on this stretch of road to avoid traffic stopping for cars waiting to turn left.
After years of seeking alternatives to traffic problems during the busy season in the resort town — with few results — leaders are now seeing a lot of projects coming to fruition.
A new eastbound lane on Canal Road from the Sportsplex to Alabama 161 will expand the route to five lanes. Officials hope it is completed by spring 2020. And the state announced recently it is planning to build a bridge about a mile and a half west of the Foley Beach Express Bridge, also with a 2020 target completion date.
“If the state follows through to the west, and we get all the Canal Road improvements completed, I think we will have traffic infrastructure in place that will make life easier for those of us who want to live south of the canal,” Kennon said. “And for our tourists to be able to move around better.”
Kennon said he wants the city to be prepared for all the changes a Wolf Bay bridge could bring and is asking city employees to take steps now to be ready.
“We asked all of the department heads to evaluate exactly how expansion to the north would affect them and what the costs would be,” Kennon said. “We’ve got a checklist we’re going to start going through. We’re going to bring in the public, the financing, everyone we can think of to come in and look at what are the ramifications of a bridge attachment to the north shore.”
Baldwin County Engineer Joey Nunnally said officials with the county highway department are already talking about how the bridge traffic would affect the area.
“It’s obviously going to have an impact on our road system if they build a bridge across and dump that traffic on our county road system,” Nunnally said. “We don’t have anything funded but discussions are taking place. There would have to be some improvements to the roads over there but it’s way preliminary yet.”
CORRECTION: This article originally stated the study would cost $282,000.