Gulf Shores will use part of a $14.4M federal grant to build a pedestrian bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.

By John Mullen

November 20, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – There are lots of plans to make new roadways and studies about other proposed pathways to accommodate golf carts and the like.

But none are probably not as exciting as a Gulf Shores proposal to make a pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning the Intracoastal Waterway where the old cantilever bridge used to provide access to the island. The Intracoastal Waterway was completed in 1937 and the bridge replaced an old pontoon bridge in the 1940s. The current bridge was completed in 1971.

The city is planning on spending part of a recently awarded federal BUILD grant of $14.4 million to accomplish the feat. It’s part of a sweeping plan with a total price tag of almost $23 million to widen State Route 59 southbound to three lanes, widening County Road 6 West to four lanes and making myriad improvements to streets and roadways in the Waterway Village District.

The crown jewel of the project just may be the proposed new pedestrian bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.

“We have to deal with how do pedestrians and bicycles get across the canal,” Craft said. “Part of this funding we’ve got the money to explore and build a freestanding pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will have an elevator up, a walkway over and an elevator down. It will leave on the south side on highway 180 where that 90-degree turn.”

Parks would be created on both sides of the canal according to rendering released by the city. It would also turn the area where the bottleneck turn is into a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly area.

“The 90-degree turn will go away and that road will be discontinued back to 24th Avenue,” Craft said. “That road will no longer be there. So, we now are able to accomplish the walking district and we can get from one side of the canal to the other safely without having to get on that bridge. That is the big news and that will allow the opportunity for all of us who live on this side of town to be able to have the opportunity to get on the bridge on your bike or walk.”

The BUILD grant, or the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development transportation discretionary grant program, awarded $14.4 million to the city and it was announced on Nov. 7. It is funded by Congress set aside $5.6 million to fund nine years of grants for investments in local and regional projects.

A Restore Act of some $21.7 million is helping by providing funding to reroute the Canal Road corridor either south of the whole neighborhood or by using East Third Street with a roundabout intersection on Canal Road and another on East 23rd Avenue to direct traffic west to Second Street East.

Two other alternate routes being considered would head south off of Canal Road east of the Gulf Shores Wastewater Treatment plant and go through undeveloped land owned by the city and a sliver of Gulf State Park. Both would also go through undeveloped land south of Dolphin Avenue to connect with East Second Street there. Bridges would be built over paved pathways used to get kids from the neighborhood to Gulf Shores Schools.

Orange Beach

The city is looking to spend about $18,000 to commission a study to see if pathways able to accommodate golf carts can be developed along city streets with speed limits of more than 25 mph. Mainly those would be Canal Road, State Route 161 and Marina Road.

Golf carts are legal on streets with the speed limit is 25 mph or less. The city is currently crafting an ordinance to regulate golf carts and bring its laws in line with Alabama law regarding the carts. In order to be legal they have to have lights, blinkers and operated by licensed drivers.

Orange Beach also recently finished a sidewalk from the end of West Oak Ridge Drive all the way to the Sportsplex. It includes connections to the Lauder Place neighborhoods as well.

Additionally, the city also recently completed spur off the Twin Bridges Trail on the Backcountry Trail called the Hidden Lake Trail interpretive loop. It also has connections to the Sportsplex.It’s not a paved trail but has a crushed stone and limestone compacted surface that is handicapped accessible.