Gulf Shores changes plan to five-lane Canal RoadBy John Mullen

May 2, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – A project long in the works along State Route 180 typically called for the widening of the road from State Route 161 in Orange Beach to State Route 59 Gulf Shores.

But with a new state bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway planned to land on the route between the two cities, planners in Gulf Shores think they can scale back any widening of the roadway there. Citizens will get a look at the project and make suggestions on May 7 at the Gulf Shores Activities Center from 5:30-7 p.m.

Gulf Shores Public Works Director Mark AcremanPublic Works Director Mark Acreman said the change in plans is good news for the city.

“The great thing that it does in the new improvements that they are doing is its actually going to reduce the traffic volume on Canal Road,” Acreman said. “Does that mean we might not want to put in some left turn lanes to make turning safer so you don’t have to stop the traffic? Yes, we may still want to add some turn lanes to make it safer and more efficient but the need to do five lanes or four lanes it’s not there.”

The sections of East Second Avenue and Canal Road on State Route 180 will become city streets when the work is complete, Acreman said.

“This particular section is from where the new bridge lands on Canal Road back to Highway 59,” Acreman said. “What we’re studying is what’s the most optimum route that handles traffic, improves pedestrian safety and minimizes to the greatest extent possible impacts to the community.”

Plans continue for widening Canal Road in Orange Beach from the Sportsplex to State Route 161 where it will intersect with the planned Wolf Bay Bridge landing near Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar. Orange Beach is also planning on using Restore Act funds to help widen Canal Road from Doc’s east to Wilson Boulevard. Once that work is done Orange Beach plans to make that eastern section a city street as well.

The biggest headache facing the planners is how to deal with the 90-degree intersection connecting Canal Road and East Second Street near Tacky Jacks.

“That 90-degree curve that’s there today just doesn’t work,” Acreman said. “It’s not a good situation.”

The city recently hired Volkert Engineering to complete a $284,000 study to determine how to best spend Restore Act money on the improvements.

“This particular section is from where the new bridge lands on Canal Road back to Highway 59,” Acreman said. “What we’re studying is what’s the most optimum route that handles traffic, improves pedestrian safety and minimizes to the greatest extent possible impacts to the community.”

Acreman hopes another route can be found to bypass the turn and he believes with the new bridge less traffic will be the road and headed to Orange Beach.

“We’re trying to look at ways to find another route that would make that location null and void for high-volume traffic,” Acreman said.

Residents will get a look at three or four suggested routes but will also have a chance to propose their own changes.

“We’ll have a couple of preliminary routes that they can look at and then we’ll also have some blank maps so they can take an opportunity to draw in their own routes and where they think it should go,” Acreman said. “That will help us evaluate the multiple options we have. There may be some things we haven’t thought of.”

A local businessman, Ryan Shamburger, whose family owns Big Beach Brewing, hopes the changes lessen traffic near the brewery and make it more pedestrian friendly. State Route 180 now splits the Waterway Village District separating his business and The Diner Restaurant from the western part of the village.

“We hope to make both those areas walking districts/entertainment districts,” Shamburger said. “We look forward to when Waterway Village no longer has 180 separating our two closest neighborhoods thereby allowing a connected, walkable downtown district.”