Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon is planning to visit the major cities in Alabama in the coming weeks to promote how much the beach tourist economy contributes to state coffers. From this platform, he’ll also appeal for help with traffic issues caused by the millions of visitors to the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Several transportation fixes are in the works, including preliminary work on two bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway in projects by the state and the city of Orange Beach. Restore Act money is in the wings for a complete overhaul of the city’s main east-west thoroughfare, Canal Road. Plans are to widen it to five lanes from Alabama State Route 161 in the heart of Orange Beach all the way to East Second Avenue in Gulf Shores.
But the biggest needed fix, Kennon said, is a north-south road from Canal Road to Alabama Route 182 or the beach highway.
“I really want to start educating these folks to just how simple the fix is, and that is the road down Powerline Road to the beach,” Kennon said. “It could solve so many of our traffic problems during the summer. I’m going to start beating that drum now all over the state as we need help getting that done.”
Kennon began his tour the week of Jan. 21 with a visit to Huntsville, where he met with the Huntsville Rotary Club and appeared on several radio and TV programs.
“We’re going to Birmingham on another trip with their chamber, Montgomery’s chamber, Rotary Clubs and those types of things in the big cities,” Kennon said.
Trips are also planned to Tuscaloosa and Auburn with the message help to the beach infrastructure helps everyone in the state by the revenue tourism generates.
“These are Alabama’s beaches, we’re the stewards of them and you guys need to help us build the infrastructure and maintain the infrastructure that we need to move all these tourists,” Kennon said. “You’re not doing Orange Beach and Gulf Shores a favor by helping us out, you’re doing the state of Alabama a service because there’s so much money generated down here and a good bit of it goes to Montgomery. Orange Beach generates about 15 percent of all lodging tax in the state. It’s significant.”
Other impressive numbers, Kennon said, include more than 30 percent of the lodging taxes collected statewide are collected in Baldwin County, and if you add Mobile County that amount is nearly 40 percent.
While the tourist areas fill state coffers with money from the lodging tax and also a big portion of the state sales tax, the small populations of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach don’t wield much clout in the Legislature, Kennon said.
“In Orange Beach, we have 3,000 voters and we all know the money goes where the votes are, so that doesn’t give us a lot of leverage,” he said. “Our message is we need our infrastructure needs to be improved to move these tourists. We don’t need to be begging in Montgomery for help.”
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