On Tuesday, Sept. 29 via a Zoom conference, the Choose2Coalition was launched in Baldwin County. Amendment 2 will be on the Baldwin County General Election Ballot on Nov. 3, and local officials and …
On Tuesday, Sept. 29 via a Zoom conference, the Choose2Coalition was launched in Baldwin County. Amendment 2 will be on the Baldwin County General Election Ballot on Nov. 3, and local officials and residents are asking citizens to vote yes. If passed, the northern end of the Baldwin Beach Express will be extended to link I-10 with I-65 and a toll authority will be established to oversee funding for the new roadway. The amendment is local to Baldwin County residents only.
Local officials believe the Baldwin Beach Express extension will benefit the county in multiple ways including infrastructure, tourism, economic development, quality of life, and as seen recently with Hurricane Sally, public safety.
“Hurricane Sally impacted our families, businesses, and communities, which makes it more important that we prepare now for Baldwin’s future,” said Tommy Lee, chairman of Gulf United Metro Business Organization (GUMBO).
In the 16-years since Hurricane Ivan hit, Baldwin County has grown by 45%. In that time, very few new evacuation routes have been added within the county.
“The safety of this community is my top priority,” Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack said. “The extension is a strategic move that will improve our public safety by creating an additional evacuation route for residents and visitors alike during hurricane season.”
The total estimated cost for the project is $200 million. Baldwin County has put approximately $12 million to date to go towards the project. These funds have gone towards traffic studies, the purchase and management of a wetland mitigation bank, environmental permitting, and planning/preparation for the entire roadway, interchange at Highway 31, interchange at I-65, and approximately ten miles of frontage roads.
If passed, the new extension will be paid for via toll — but only for those who use the route. At this time, no proposed cost has been announced. The toll would only apply to the new extension, while the pre-existing Beach Express will remain toll-free.
“Over the last decade, the Baldwin County Commission has invested a lot of time, planning and effort and tax dollars laying the groundwork for this project,” said Senator Chris Elliott. “Now that the planning is complete and the permits are in hand, it is time to make this a reality; we just need the funding to build it. While I was not in support of the final Mobile Bridge and Bayway funding scheme, this project is entirely different. The cost of this completely new road will be paid for by users, the vast majority of which will be visitors and tourists on their way to our beaches. This project will move visitor traffic off of our existing overburdened roadways and ease congestion, and the tourists will pay for it. Additionally while the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway plan provided no comparable toll-free routes the Baldwin Beach Express 2 will never be your only option when navigating Baldwin County.”
While the benefits of the new route are easier to see in South Baldwin County, Bay Minette Mayor Bob Wills says he believes the extension will have a positive impact in all of Baldwin.
“I know that there are some concerns that having the Baldwin Beach Express 2 may detract from the traffic on Highway 59, however I believe that the overall growth that we will experience from this added infrastructure will more than compensate for any lost traffic in that area and will also benefit the businesses that exist there now,” he said. “If we look at the experiences of Loxley, Robertsdale, and Foley in regard to the Foley Beach Express and the first portion of the Baldwin Beach Express we will see that they have all benefited and expanded from this added infrastructure, and it is my belief that we will have the same experience.”
To learn more about the Choose2Coalition and to find full project details, visit choose2baldwin.com, and follow the coalition on Facebook and Twitter for updates.