Muck bogs down county boardwalk bridge plan in North Baldwin County

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 9/16/22

BAY MINETTE — Plans for a pedestrian bridge between Baldwin County's Bicentennial Park and Live Oak Landing are mired in a literal layer of muck that could add about 25% to the cost of the $1.2 …

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Muck bogs down county boardwalk bridge plan in North Baldwin County

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BAY MINETTE — Plans for a pedestrian bridge between Baldwin County's Bicentennial Park and Live Oak Landing are mired in a literal layer of muck that could add about 25% to the cost of the $1.2 million project.

County officials plan to build the boardwalk between the two parks off Alabama 225 near the Stockton community in north Baldwin County. The project would be paid for with money from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, known as GOMESA.

Brian Peacock, county parks and CIS director, said other factors could increase the cost.

"The original concept for that bridge has taken on some change due to the environmentals of that location," Peacock told county commissioners at a work session Sept. 6. "The gist of the agenda is we originally budgeted $1.2 million for that project and the probable cost of that project now that they've gone through the engineering phase of that has come in a little higher."

Andy Bobe, senior project manager with Dewberry Engineering of Daphne, which is working on the project, said the ground at the site will require a different construction method.

"Part of the concept of the bridge installation was to build it from the top down, working from the deck install piles, building each section at a time as you go," Bobe said. "Through our investigation, through soils, our geotechnical engineers determined there's between 10 and 15 feet of muck that we've got to get through to get piles set into a sand layer. That's going to make the piles that we need to use for this boardwalk between 30 and 40 feet long and the equipment that's needed to set a pile that long starts at about 50,000 pounds, and to have that level of equipment operating from a boardwalk surface creates a couple of issues."

Bobe said the boardwalk will have to be redesigned to support the equipment. Placing equipment that heavy on a boardwalk 15 feet off the ground will also create additional safety issues.

"We're not really comfortable with recommending going that direction," Bobe said.

Bobe said a new plan would be to place mats across the wetlands areas and install the pilings from the mats. After the piles are placed, the boardwalk can be built by connecting the deck and piles.

That plan will require that about 400 trees be cut, he said.

Bobe said the new plan will increase the cost of the project.

"Right now, with our proposed plan, we're approximately $250,000 more than what we started," Bobe said. "I think there was a $1.2 million GOMESA funding. We're estimating right now we're going to be $1.4 million, $1.5 million."

Ron Cink, acting county administrator and budget director, said the county has enough money in the GOMESA account to cover the additional cost.

"We do have some unattached funds in the GOMESA fund," Cink said. "This was a GOMESA project from the very beginning, from architectural selection, engineering selection, all the way through. The only thing is Davis-Bacon does apply on this, just as a heads-up."

The U.S. Davis-Bacon Act sets requirements for wages paid on projects receiving federal funding. Cink said complying with the act could add additional costs to the project.

The boardwalk is planned to connect the two parks and allow visitors to see the plants and wildlife in the delta area, Bobe said.

"I know the original intent was to draw people to both Bicentennial and to Live Oak Landing and to try and create some informational stations along the boardwalk talking about both the flora and the fauna along the walkway, and then create some informational areas there along the boardwalk that talked about the history of the parks," Bobe said.

Commission Chairman Jeb Ball said officials are discussing the project and changes and will bring the proposal up for a vote when the updated plan is completed.

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