Extending Fern Avenue from its end at North Cypress Street all the way east to the Foley Beach Express will give a boost to emergency services not only in Foley, but also the surrounding area serviced by South Baldwin Regional Medical Center.
“One of the main benefits we saw in it is to get the emergency vehicle traffic out of downtown Foley,” Mayor John Koniar said. “It will allow those vehicles to come up the Beach Express and then cut over at Fern and be almost right at the hospital.”
But Fern is just one of a haandful of projects Koniar says Foley is undertaking or considering to prepare the state’s third fastest growing city for the future.
“We’re looking at five- and 10-year plans,” Koniar said. “Foley is the third fastest growing city in the state of Alabama right now. Fairhope’s one, Chelsea in Shelby County is two, Foley is three, Daphne is four and Gulf Shores is five. It’s coming at us and we’re trying to get ready for it.”
Fern Avenue, a $4.4 million project, was paid for with an 80/20 Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program matching grant. City Administrator Mike Thompson said it is an ALDOT project, but Foley agreed to put up the matching funds to get the grant and also had to pay 100 percent of the design and permitting costs.
Foley had to put up $830,000 for the road officials hope to open this summer. The city is adding a little less than two miles on the extension, but will repave the entire 3.3 miles from Highway 59 to the Beach Express.
“We should have traffic on the road by July or August, it just depends on, of course, the weather,” Koniar said. “Today’s [April 8] not a good day but they are making pretty good progress.”
Besides giving emergency vehicles better access and a different route from Highway 59, the new road will also help regular traffic flow.
“It gives the locals another east-west alternative to being on Highway 59,” Koniar said. “Eventually it will also create a commercial opportunity at the intersection of Fern Avenue and the Beach Express over time.”
Koniar said there are no immediate plans to place a traffic light at the Fern-Beach Express intersection, but he believes one will eventually be needed.
Another project underway is an extension of Ninth Avenue to the west to the site of the new elementary school under construction.
“Because of the new elementary school, we agreed to extend Ninth Avenue and give them another route into the school,” Koniar said. “I’m sure there will be single-family housing and apartments there, too.”
Foley is currently the largest elementary school in the state and the new 113,000-square-foot, $15.5 million K-6 elementary school will help alleviate some overcrowding.
Koniar said the city is also planning upgrades to Foley Beach Express intersections at County Road 20 and OWA and County Road 12 in anticipation of large apartment complexes opening soon on both of those roads.
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