FOLEY - At the end of September, the Choose2Coalition spoke in support of Amendment 2, which will appear on the Baldwin County General Election Ballot on Nov. 3. If passed, the amendment will see the …
FOLEY - At the end of September, the Choose2Coalition spoke in support of Amendment 2, which will appear on the Baldwin County General Election Ballot on Nov. 3. If passed, the amendment will see the Baldwin Beach Express expand from I-10 to I-65. Estimated costs for the entire project are $200 million. Baldwin County has put approximately $12 million into the project to date, including 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 established, the new portion of highway will be tolled to help fund its construction and maintenance.
“This will be another evacuation route,” said councilmember Ralph Hellmich. “You don’t have to use the highway if you choose not to pay the toll, Highway 59 is going to stay the same. It’s estimated that the majority of the money that will be generated from this will most likely be done by the tourists coming to this area because it’s a direct route for them. I think it’s something that we ought to support, because it’s more important to us down here at the Southern end of the county because we’re the ones who will be evacuating.”
The toll cost will not be established unless the amendment is passed. The toll is expected to remain in effect indefinitely for continued maintenance of the highway.
Councilmember Charlie Ebert raised concerns on how the new road will affect the Foley Beach Express if built. He suggested increasing the city’s efforts to get the state to take over maintenance of the Foley Beach Express.
“That’s going to be even more traffic on our portion if this passes, and it’s already a maintenance nightmare,” he said. “I like the idea of the new road, but it’s going to compound the problem we’ve already got if it comes to fruition … And by politically voicing our support for the road, the maintenance of our road comes into play, it’s not a separate issue.”
Council President Wayne Trawick agreed with Ebert, stating the city is experiencing issues currently due to the amount of debris trucks on the roadways due to Sally. He says the city is already looking at anywhere from $2.5 to $3 million to repave the Foley Beach Express. Currently the City of Foley is responsible for paying the entire cost of maintaining its portion of the Beach Express.
“It’s called a municipal connector,” said City Administrator Mike Thompson. “If there’s a municipal road that’s connecting two separate state highways, then ALDOT can choose to take over maintenance of that road. They don’t actually take over the road, just the maintenance, and that’s what we’ve been pushing ALDOT to consider. They’ve not made that decision yet, but it’s in the state law that they can do that. Honestly even without the new Baldwin Beach Express expansion, Foley Beach Express qualifies today because Canal Road is a state highway and Highway 59 is a state highway, so it’s already a municipal connector.”
Council voted in support of Amendment 2, while councilmembers voiced they would like to see continued efforts to seek outside help on maintaining Foley Beach Express.