New sidewalk projects proposed for Baldwin County

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 10/19/22

DAPHNE — New projects could provide residents and visitors in Robertsdale, Fish River and other areas with walking trails and improved access, local officials said.The Eastern Shore …

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New sidewalk projects proposed for Baldwin County

Posted

DAPHNE — New projects could provide residents and visitors in Robertsdale, Fish River and other areas with walking trails and improved access, local officials said.

The Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization plans to vote Wednesday, Oct. 19 to approve projects to extend the current walking trail on U.S. 98 east from the Fish River bridge and to add access improvements near Robertsdale High School, Sarah Sislak, ESMPO coordinator, said.

At a work session Wednesday, Oct. 12, MPO members also discussed using other funds to build new walkways in other areas, such as linking existing trails in the Fairhope area.

The Fish River project would extend the Eastern Shore Trail that now begins at the Causeway and ends at the U.S. 98 bridge at Weeks Bay. The project would extend the trail east to Pleasant View Lane. The estimated cost of the project is $799,225, according to MPO reports.

Sislak said the cost would be paid with federal funds secured by U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Mobile.

Fairhope Councilman Jack Burrell, MPO chairman, said that while the project will not require local funds, the price of the project is more than in the past.

"The only startling thing there for me was the $800,000 worth of sidewalks and just how little that gets you now days," Burrell said. "It's kind of disheartening actually."

The Robertsdale project includes improvements in the area of Robertsdale High School and Fairgrounds Road. The work includes widening for right turn lanes, signal upgrades and access management in the area. The estimated cost of the project is $887,463.

Burrell also asked MPO members to use organization funds for new sidewalks and trails in Baldwin County. He said the MPO now has about $180,000 in funds that are not designated for any purpose that could be used for walkways.

"That's one of the things that we've been doing a lot of thinking about," Burrell said. "We have street surfacing projects and signalization, but part of our mission is also to look at pedestrian traffic. We have done a couple of sidewalk projects, but I know Fairhope has a need."

He said one particular area in Fairhope could link the Eastern Shore Trail to walkways on U.S. 98.

Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan said the area is used by many pedestrians but does not have a sidewalk. She said residents of areas outside Fairhope, such as Montrose, also walk in the area.

That is a heavily trafficked area because it abuts the Eastern Shore Trail, plus it's on 98 and you have that multimodal trail on 98 and it's a connector and there's a lot of people who use that area. They can travel from Montrose over the Publix to walk over there," Sullivan said. "So, I do think it is something that is needed."

She said a walkway between U.S. 98 and Scenic 98 along Parker Road would also improve pedestrian access to the area where Fairhope plans to build a nature park on the nearby Dyas Triangle property.

Burrell said the MPO could consider projects throughout the organization coverage area, which includes the Eastern Shore and parts of central Baldwin County. He said available funds could be divided to use in different areas and local cities and the county could also contribute to the projects.

"That could maybe leverage our MPO money to the county and to the municipalities to try to get the most out of what we have in the bank," Burrell said. "I'd like to entertain maybe a 50-50 split. A back of the envelope calculation that I know that Fairhope needs is $90,000 and that was going up on the price of concrete from the 2021 back of the envelope estimate that I was given by public works, and he actually inflated the price a little bit as well, so it's been inflated twice, so $90,000, $92,000 is a good number. If the city of Fairhope asked for $46,000. Allow for all to take a bite of the apple."

Loxley Mayor Richard Teal said his city could also use funding for trails in the future. He said one site for a trail would be the right of way of the railroad tracks that ran through Loxley in the past.

"I would like to use some of the funds for Rails to Trails walking down the railroad," Teal said. "I would like to be the one who starts that program going through Loxley. So, that would be something in the next couple of years that I would like to come back and ask the MPO for, but I do think that we should put more sidewalks and walking trails because there are a lot of people who are walking now."

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