Summer traffic has no mercy on Canal Road but the Orange Beach City Council approved a plan Tuesday to help alleviate backups on weekends.
The Alabama Department of Transportation project to widen Canal Road to five lanes has been ongoing all year, and while a brief period allowed for all five lanes to open early in the summer, work began on the south side in late June, closing a section of the outside eastbound lane.
“The way that this project had been bid, we were going to have one eastbound lane and two westbound lanes,” Community Development Director Kit Alexander explained during the council meeting on Tuesday, July 7th. “And in response to a request from the mayor’s office, (ALDOT contractor) John G. Walton developed a plan to be able to have two eastbound lanes and two westbound lanes on the weekends in response to the amount of traffic that we’re seeing coming into town.”
The plan, which was approved by resolution Tuesday, allows for temporary asphalt wedging to be put into place on the southside shoulder prior to each weekend through early August, in order to provide safe driving conditions and allow for the opening of the second eastbound lane during the busiest time at the beach.
Since it was not budgeted as part of the ALDOT project, the cost of the temporary wedging, up to a total amount not to exceed $54,920 ($2,746 per day with a maximum of 20 days of asphalt placement/removal prior to August 12th), was in the city’s hands.
“It is a tough balancing act, an extremely tough balancing act, moving traffic and accommodating everybody that lives here in every way, getting into and out of traffic,” Mayor Kennon said while discussing the importance of the resolution. “It is just very difficult. … We’re trying our best, every one of us, working together to manage and move traffic as the No. 1 priority. It is the No. 1 priority for our police department, our Public Works, our contractors. It’s got to move traffic or we won’t get anywhere.”
Alexander said she wanted to express her appreciation of Scott Appleton from John G. Walton Construction Company, Inc., who was at the meeting.
“He has been very responsive - clearly showed himself to be an advocate for the City of Orange Beach - and when we make a request he has shown that he makes things happen in response to the needs that we have as a community,” Alexander said. “And I just wanted to recognize him and express our appreciation.”
Mayor Kennon added that the city would not have had five lanes open as soon as it did, if it wasn’t for Appleton. By contract, that fifth lane wasn’t supposed to be open until the fall.
“But we asked Scott, we started talking, he jumped on it, got ALDOT involved and worked out a way to get five lanes,” Mayor Kennon said. “So thank you, that’s a big, big deal to everybody.”
Looking at the overall Canal Road widening project that is scheduled to be completed in December, the mayor and council urged residents and visitors to heed the 40 mph speed limit in the work zone.
“These guys are out there working hard trying to make life better for us,” Councilman Jerry Johnson said. “They don’t need to see vehicles going by 55-60 miles an hour, so please obey the speed limit.”
Orange Beach Police are strictly enforcing the speed limit to help keep the construction workers safe.
“We are writing tickets probably more so than we ever had on the five lanes because of the speed limit,” Mayor Kennon said. “We’ve got to slow everybody down because it’s not Talladega.”