GULF SHORES — A third southbound lane on Alabama 59 between Foley and Gulf Shores will be open by 2024 and a pedestrian bridge built over the Intracoastal Waterway under plans approved by the …
GULF SHORES — A third southbound lane on Alabama 59 between Foley and Gulf Shores will be open by 2024 and a pedestrian bridge built over the Intracoastal Waterway under plans approved by the Gulf Shores City Council.
The council voted Monday, Aug. 22, to approve the city's 2023 Transportation Plan. Cities must approve the annual plan to receive funding from the Rebuild Alabama Gas Tax.
Mark Acreman, Gulf Shores city engineer, said the city plan includes the widening project, pedestrian bridge, Waterway East Extension, the connector on Baldwin County 6 to Coastal Gateway, Gulf Shores Walking District improvements and other resurfacing and pedestrian projects around the city.
Acreman said the widening project will improve traffic flow southbound into the city.
"We're expected to start that project this fall and complete it in the winter of 2024," Acreman said. "This will substantially increase the capacity of Highway 59."
The first phase of the project will include widening the highway from Fort Morgan Road north to Cypress Bend Boulevard, according to city reports.
Adding a third lane on Alabama 59 will require the space now used by pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the Dr. W.C. Holmes Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. Acreman said the city plans to build a pedestrian bridge to the east of the highway bridge to allow walkers to continue to be able to cross the canal.
The bridge will be 73 feet above the waterway, the same height as the Holmes bridge, Acreman said.
"This is currently going through multiple layers of permitting, but we are expected to go to bid the end of this year or early next year," Acreman said. "This will be to construct a pedestrian bridge to offset the loss of pedestrian connectivity on the Holmes Bridge when we have to add the third southbound lane."
The bridge will be located east of Tacky Jack's where Alabama 180 turns east on the waterway. Acreman said city officials are also working on plans to reroute that section of Alabama 180 to accommodate the construction of the pedestrian bridge.
He said a short-term detour will take traffic around the bridge construction site. City officials are working with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to develop a long-term route for the road that would include building some of the highway through Gulf State Park property.
Also on the plan is the extension of Waterway Boulevard East. Acreman said that project is out for bid.
"We're scheduled to start this fall as well and complete that in the spring of 2024," Acreman said. "This will connect a new roadway from Highway 59 along 29th to Second Street to Waterway East all the way around to County Road 4 eventually. This is also going to provide a new entrance to our airport and proposed future terminal."
The connector project on Baldwin County 6 should go out for bids by the end of 2022. The first phase of the project will take place between Raley Farms development and Stone Gate subdivision.
Acreman said city officials are looking at two options for the beach walking district.
"We have the components that are in and around the Embassy Suites project and we also have a segment that is on East 2nd Avenue between East First Street and East Second Street," Acreman said.
Acreman the city should receive about $100,000 from the state fuel tax in the upcoming year. He said statewide tax distributions are based on population and Gulf Shores' population increased at a higher rate than most other cities across the state.
The city's population grew by about 5,000 between the 2010 and 2020 censuses, according to reports. The city received $67,341 in 2020 before the most recent census.
"So, you've got your population data that we had a substantial increase in 2020 as part of the census allowed us to get more revenue for this year and last year as well as the coming year," Acreman said.
Mayor Robert Craft said the 2023 plan shows that the city is moving ahead with a variety of projects to deal with traffic growth.
"That's quite an aggressive schedule there and good work on putting all that together," he told Acreman.