Traffic fix on Alabama 161 at the Orange Beach McDonald's have nothing to do with a proposed bypass in the same area.

By John Mullen

August 8, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL – (OBA®) – Rumors of work starting on a bypass from Canal Road behind Big Fish, Frank & Co. and Your CBD Store intersecting with Alabama 161 south of McDonald’s are greatly exaggerated, Mayor Tony Kennon said.

Changes are coming at the Alabama 161 part aimed at improving safety in what has become a dangerous entrance-exit to McDonald’s including a head-on collision there on the morning of Aug. 7.

Tony Kennon, mayor of Orange Beach, Alabama.Working with state officials the City of Orange Beach is planning to extend lane-dividing poles south past the southern entrance to the restaurant. Traffic coming north on 161 would not be able to make a left turn there any longer. Traffic in the southbound left lane also would be denied access to the southern entrance to McDonald’s.

“It’s because we’ve had an unbelievable number head-ons and T-bone accidents there,” Kennon said. “It’s the state’s decision and we’ve been talking with them. They were very concerned about the number of accidents. They’ve come to the conclusion that the access is not as important as the number of wrecks.”

Most of the accidents happen when northbound traffic makes a left into McDonald’s or when traffic exiting that entrance tries to make a left turn north.

“There’s no line of site if you’re trying to make a left turn to cross over and head north,” Kennon said. “We’re in the process of those being closed off. You’ll be able to make a right in at all of them but you won’t be able to do a left in if you’re heading north or a left out.

“We’re going to continue those lane delineators south on 161 so that you can’t cross over. If you’re going south in the right lane you can turn in or turn out but right turns only. The only left turn in and left turn out will be on Canal Road.”

Cars in the southbound left lane have been known to stop at the current end of the lane dividers and wait for the right lane to clear to turn into McDonald’s bringing that lane to a standstill.

“It’s crazy,” Kennon said. “Sometimes when they are busy it will back up all the way to the intersection because they are sitting there trying to cross over to McDonald’s. That’s going to eliminate all of that.”

The state recently awarded the $7.4 million bid for construction of the fifth lane on Canal Road from William Silvers Parkway to Alabama 161 but it doesn’t include work on the Canal-161 intersection, Alabama Department of Transportation Assistant Southwest Engineer Brian Aaron said. It will be bid as a separate project.

“That project is being funded through Restore,” Aaron said. “We are in the process of getting grant agreements in place so that design can begin.”

Kennon is anxious for that project to be bid as well but it could face some delays getting the permitting because it involves wetlands.

“We’re trying to get that in the process but we’ve got some wetlands to deal with and some other things,” Kennon said. “We’re trying to put it on a fast track as well and get that thing done and (the state) seems to be all in.”

Kennon was unsure when the new poles would be installed. While it’s the state’s road they must give permission for the installation but the city will have to buy them.