A rendering of the Wolf Bay Bridge.
By John Mullen
November 16, 2017 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA) - The City of Orange Beach is serious about tackling traffic issues on its own and is poised to spend more than $242,000 for environmental studies, permitting and conceptual design for the construction of a Wolf Bay Bridge.
A resolution was discussed during a work session on Nov. 14 and will be voted on by the council in a Dec. 5 regular session. If passed, Burk-Kleinpeter will be hired to do the preliminary work on the span.
During a proceeding regular session, also on Nov. 14, the council OK’d $68,000, again to Burk-Kleinpeter for design, construction engineering and inspection services for the widening of Canal Road from Alabama 161 to Wilson Boulevard. This project would include a possible roundabout in front of the arts center.
For some, the bridge is a long time coming.
“I want to thank y’all for this,” long-time bridge proponent and resident Allen McElroy said. “It’s taken 12 years to get to this. That’s how long I’ve been working on this.”
Mayor Tony Kennon said conversations about a Wolf Bay Bridge began more than 25 years ago. After several initiatives faltered and sputtered or failed due to lack of funding, the council is moving ahead devoid of state or federal help.
Funding will come from the recently passed 2 percent lodging tax increase earmarked for infrastructure and beach cleaning work. The city estimates it will generate an extra $5 million to $6 million per year and that a completed bridge will cost between $60 million and $80 million.
“The good thing about this situation is if the City of Orange Beach builds a bridge, it streamlines the entire process,” Kennon said. “We’re fixing to rock and roll on a bridge.”
The city will get pricing for a new bridge with pedestrian and bicycle lanes and one without.
“They’re going to ride it either way,” Councilman Jeff Boyd said.
Other major traffic improvements are also in the works for the city with adding a new eastbound lane to Canal Road to expand the roadway to five lanes. It’s hoped the new lane will be operational by the spring of 2020.
The state is also acquiring land for a new road from the Foley Beach Express to County Road 4 in Gulf Shores and extending further south to include a new bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway there.
In other business on Nov. 14:
• The city authorized the surveying and title research on property it is swapping with the state. The new sewer plant was built on state park land, one parcel west of a parcel owned by the city. Both are about 40 acres.
• Extended the planned unit development for Beachland subdivision for one year. The 22-acre tract received final approval in December of 2016 but no work has started or building permits issued. There are 69 lots for single family houses in the development west of the Village of Tanin on the north side of beach road.
• Gave council approval for Sunset Park planned use development on the north side of Canal Road just west of Wolf Bay Plaza. Developers wanted the zoning changed from mobile home park to a PUD which will have 60 three-story cottages built on pilings to a height of 50 feet. They will be grouped in sets of 20, each set with a homeowners’ association and pool. Units will be four bedrooms and have 2,020 square feet.
• Toughened the privacy fence ordinance to exclude modifications of chain link fencing with tarps or slats.
• Is considering an ordinance to prevent motorized vessels from beaching on Walker Island to protect important seagrass beds that serve as an incubator for important marine life species.
• Set a public hearing on the Greenway Apartments at Orange Beach PUD for micro efficiency units near Columbia Southern. The complex was previously turned down because the council believed it lacked sufficient parking to support the 216 units. The applicant is now proposing to build just 108 units.
• The city announced the annual Christmas tree lighting would be on Nov. 28 at The Wharf at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy special festive musical performances, cookie decorating, letters to Santa, cups of toasty hot chocolate, reading of The Christmas Story by Mayor Kennon. Santa will arrive atop a city firetruck.