GULF SHORES — A bridge closed to cars since 2008, and later pedestrians, could be rebuilt as part of traffic and walking improvements planned on and near Windmill Ridge Road, city officials …
GULF SHORES — A bridge closed to cars since 2008, and later pedestrians, could be rebuilt as part of traffic and walking improvements planned on and near Windmill Ridge Road, city officials said Wednesday, July 20.
Some residents, however, said opening Fourth Street to vehicles again will increase traffic in their neighborhoods and should not be done.
At a public meeting to discuss the project, Marc Acreman, Gulf Shores city engineer, said the work would make the area more accessible for cars, pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
"We're looking to improve not only transportation needs, but also the pedestrian needs in the community," Acreman said. "I realize there are some desperate safety issues out there that need to be addressed. We know there's a problem. There're multiple problems in this neighborhood that need to be addressed and primarily the Fourth Street bridge is one of them."
Acreman said the bridge at Fourth Street was originally a county bridge moved from another location. The structure has deteriorated over the years and must now be replaced.
"Obviously, the bridge of late has gotten increasingly worse," Acreman said. "It is unsafe for cars and was deemed so in 2008. So, it's been a long time. It's been unoperated for vehicles, but we've been allowing pedestrians to use it. Unfortunately, the sinkholes that are now forming, it's become unsafe for pedestrians as well."
Acreman said the small bridge is unique in that it is shorter at 18 feet than it is wide, at 22 feet.
City plans call for a new bridge at Fourth Street with a pedestrian lane separated by a guard rail. The city also plans to add a 10 to 12-foot walking and biking trail along Windmill Ridge Road from Alabama 59 to West Beach Boulevard.
A separate wooden bridge for pedestrians will also be built next to the Windmill Ridge Road bridge.
Acreman said the bridge now on Windmill Ridge Road has a pedestrian lane, but is not safe for walkers or cyclists.
"That biker shares the bridge with motorists with only a 6-inch curb separating a walker or biker from the motorists," Acreman said. "So, not the most ideal situation for pedestrians on a motorway that's getting busier and busier as time goes by."
Acreman said the project is expected to cost about $3 million and be completed in about two years.
"Our proposed schedule, we would like to start design early next year on both projects and then start construction sometime second quarter, middle of the year next year and then get through probably about the end of 2024," he said.
Some residents at the meeting said opening Fourth Street to vehicles again would create more traffic problems in the neighborhood. Residents said they often now must wait for the traffic light to change several times on Windmill Ridge Road before they can turn onto Alabama 59.
Resident Teresa Hatcher said she supported a bridge for pedestrians but was not in favor of cars on the route.
"The best thing about the bridge closing is there is no traffic," she said.
She said families often walk in the area without worrying about vehicles.
"If you start running cars through there, I'll tell you what will happen, anytime there's a major event, it's two hours to get out of my driveway because people use that as a thoroughfare," she said.