The Tom Thumb store will be eliminated in this Canal Road/Alabama 161 project.
The state's plan for the Canal Road/Alabama 161 intersection would eliminate the Tom Thumb convenience store in the southwest corner.
Orange Beach, Alabama Mayor Tony Kennon
Mayor Tony Kennon
By John Mullen
 
July 12, 2018 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – This past Fourth of July week may have been the busiest on record for this summer resort town, Mayor Tony Kennon said, pending final numbers.
 
You could certainly tell it by the traffic.
 
“Here’s a request from me,” Kennon said at the opening of the July 10 city council meeting. “Please don’t text me and tell me we’ve got a lot of traffic. I’m probably in it and I already know we have a lot of traffic. We’ll continue to have a lot of traffic until Labor Day most likely.”
 
The early comments prompted a late meeting discussion and update of the upcoming work to add a second eastbound lane to Canal Road, the source of the biggest traffic bottleneck in town.
 
Both Kennon and Community Development Director Kit Alexander provided the updates including the removal of the Tom Thumb at Canal Road and Alabama 161 to make room for double righthand turn lanes flowing south to the beach.
Orange Beach Alabama Community Development Director Kit Alexander.
Kit Alexander
“They have already informed the owners of the building at Tom Thumb that that building is going to come down in order for the DOT to build a much smoother sort of bypass through the intersection,” Alexander said.
 
Kennon said the intersection improvements will provide for two lanes of faster-moving traffic.
 
“There will be two very wide, radius sweeping lanes that will flow south on 161 to the beach,” Kennon said.
 
Alexander said the intersection will be one of the most complicated parts of the entire project. The cost for the whole project is around $17 million and will be paid for with Restore Act and ALDOT money.
 
“It’s going to take at least a year to do the whole road widening and then we’ve got that whole intersection, demolition and complete rebuild at 161,” Alexander said. “That intersection is going to be a big, big job and it’s going to be a headache. We’ll be lucky to get it done by 2021.”
 
Councilman Jeff Silvers asked if the bypass starting at Big Mike’s Steakhouse and entering Alabama 161 south of McDonald’s was still being considered.
 
“It’s on the drawing board but there are so much wetlands it would delay us finishing by years,” Kennon said. “It could be as much as seven years to get that done. That’s why we went this route so hopefully, we can get it done in two. The money is there.”
 
Residents have heard about the plan but have been asking why the work hasn’t started.
 
“A lot of people have been calling city hall and my office asking why we’re not seeing anything done on the additional eastbound lane from William Silvers Parkway to 161,” Alexander said. “The reason for that is there is a significant amount of utility relocation that has to occur to facilitate the additional eastbound lane.
 
“In order for these utilities to be relocated it’s going to cause lane closures. We cannot have any lane closures until school is back into session. Any lane closures during this time of year would be catastrophic.”
 
Alexander said moving the utilities will begin this fall and hopefully be completed before the busy season in May of 2019.
 
“Once again, we’ll have a summer where we won’t be able to do anything because we don’t want any lane closures,” she said. “Once school starts next summer they will begin the roadway construction.”
 
The current intersection at Canal Road and Alabama 161.
State Park Road
Kennon said the ideal fix for island traffic woes would be a four-lane bridge at The Wharf connecting to a four-lane road through the state park to the beach. But the chances of that happening were squashed in an agreement of the new lodge.
 
“I don’t think, in my lifetime, there will ever be a road through the park to connect the beach with Canal Road,” Kennon said. “It is the most common-sense fix for our traffic. But the governor’s office in a lawsuit with environmental groups over the lodge for Gulf State Park signed an agreement not to build any new roads for 20 years.”
 
It’s the city’s position, Kennon said, that the original road to the beach from Canal is still a road and wouldn’t be a new road but improvement of an existing one. Originally it was called Romar Road, he said because it leads to the Romar Bed Breakfast on the beach. It’s more commonly known today as Powerline Road.
 
“But the state doesn’t recognize it as a road,” he said. “I hear the argument all the time, all you’ve got to do is go through the park. But that’s just not going to happen unless a governor takes it upon himself/herself like Bentley did take it upon himself to build that lodge, it ain’t going to happen. I’ve been here through three governors and no governor has ever said we were going to get it.”
 
Canal Road East
Alexander said construction could likely begin in the spring on three-laning Canal Road from Alabama 161 to Wilson Boulevard by adding a center turn lane.
 
“We just signed an agreement with ALDOT that it will no longer be a DOT roadway,” she said. “It will be a City of Orange Beach roadway.”
 
One of the problems at the intersection is traffic heading to Doc’s Seafood Shack making a right onto Canal and after going a few feet east making a U-turn to go back to the iconic restaurant.
 
“We’ll be restricting movement across that center lane and putting in a roundabout there just east of the library so people can get to the businesses on the north side of Canal Road,” Alexander said. 
 
Restore Act money will also help pay for this project estimated to cost $1.8 million.
 
During the regular session the council also discussed:
Approved liquor license applications for Zeke’s Landing and Marina, Happy Harbor Marina and for Gilbey’s to use during fishing events at The Wharf.
Agreed to spend about $16,300 with Sawgrass Consulting to provide professional services for Orange Beach Sportsplex Ball Field Improvements for fields 9-12.
Voted down a resolution to spend nearly $15,000 to buy a sign for the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach from Wrico Signs. Instead, the council decided to go with a sign with two lines of digital readout that will cost about $27,000. The city is required to bid out any expenditures over $15,000 and now bids must be sought for the purchase of the new sign.
Passed a resolution accepting ownership and maintenance responsibility of Canal Square Lane. The road runs north off of Canal Road east of Blalock’s Seafood and leads to a development of a new 64-unit townhome development.
During the work session the council also discussed:
A resolution authorizing a franchise to The Dumpster Guy, to remove and dispose of commercial solid waste and to remove and transport construction and demolition debris.
A resolution authorizing a franchise for Christine Szczepaniak for Christine's Shuttle & Limo, to operate a taxi and limousine service. 
A resolution authorizing a transfer of real property from Patricia Lynn Bean Schachtel, Melinda R. Bean, Robert Harris Bean and Beverly Bean to the City of Orange Beach to correct a clerical error in the purchase of the Orange Beach Golf Center.
A resolution approving the submission of the 2017 Municipal Water Pollution Prevention (MWPP) annual report.
A resolution authorizing the execution of a professional services agreement with Sound Associates, Inc., to provide audio/visual consulting services for the Orange Beach Event Center.
A resolution establishing a Social Media Use Policy for the City of Orange Beach.
A resolution adopting operating policies and procedures for the Orange Beach Recreation Center. The new rules would require children 14 and under be accompanied by an adult at the recreation center and pool.