One evening Mike Powell and his wife were relaxing on the porch before sundown and noticed something he’d never heard before. Traffic noise.
This particular night it seemed louder than normal. Powell said the noise had increased steadily since the building of a new Shell station in the median of the Foley Beach Express about a half mile from his home in Craft Farms North in South Baldwin County.
“It depends on which way the wind blows,” Powell said. “That particular night was really bad.”
Powell decided to investigate. South of the Shell station on the west side of the Foley Beach Express he saw a trail had been cut into the woods. And it just so happened an ALDOT pickup truck was emerging from the woods that same evening.
“I asked them ‘what are you doing?’” Powell said. “And they said we’re building a bridge.”
That was the first time Powell or any of his neighbors had heard of a bridge coming to their neck of the woods.
That project is under fire in the form of a condemnation challenge from the Baldwin County Bridge Company on a piece of its land the Alabama Department of Transportation wants for the project. The hearing in that challenge detailed the lack of studies and public meetings conducted to warrant the $87 million project as confirmed by ALDOT’s own director, John Cooper.
Since that Dec. 4 meeting the bridge, Powell said, has grown from being eight feet off the ground to span some wetlands to a 28-foot flyover at the start of a new road he’s calling the Beach Expressway II. And, like the big bridge project, no one can point to studies to justify building the bridge on the north either, Powell said.
“The stories keep changing,” Powell said.
He and his neighbors aren’t happy about it. A trip to Mobile’s ALDOT’s office with engineers Edwin Perry and Vince Beebe in March didn’t assuage any fears he might have.
“He had a map and it didn’t show where our houses were,” Powell said. “My wife, Lisa, asked him what kind of volume of traffic were they expecting. They didn’t know. I said ‘how and the heck can you put in something like this and not know what’s going on?’ They had no answers for us and we still had no answers of where our homes were going to be.
“And now it was about 17 feet high for the bridge.”
After more consulting and complaining from Powell — and ALDOT consulting with its legal department — Powell finally received a map of the project in relation to the houses in Craft Farms North.
“And he put in there it’s going to be a 28-foot flyover now,” Powell said.
No one has yet to address the noise issue either, Powell said.
“Mayor [Robert] Craft said he could not do anything about the state project,” Powell said. “When we met with Edwin Perry and Vince Beebe they said it was the city pushing it. When I got on the phone with Vince Calametti he said ‘Mike, the mayor is pushing this. The mayor wants this to happen.’ No one wants to help.”