FAIRHOPE – Construction will slow traffic on some busy highways in Baldwin in upcoming weeks, but work continues on-schedule, transportation officials said.
Matt Ericksen, division engineer with the Alabama Department of Transportation, said lane closings began on Alabama 181 between Interstate 10 and US 90 in Malbis earlier this month. The project involves the construction of a diverging diamond interchange at the exit. While some work was done in 2019, construction that involved closing lanes near the Eastern Shore Center mall was postponed until after the holiday shopping season.
Ericksen told members of the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization on Jan. 8 that the new interchange should be open in about five months.
“We are probably looking at shifting traffic to the new configuration in June,” he said. “There's a lot of drainage work to be done on US 90 and that third lane we have to on US 90 up 181 to the interstate.”
Work crews began closing lanes on Jan. 7. Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood said he was caught in the traffic on 181 that day.
“We're back to lane closures. I made the mistake of trying to run up there at 2 o'clock yesterday and paid for the price of progress,” Haygood said.
Ericksen said ALDOT has established a Facebook page – Eastern Shore Diverging Diamond Interchange – to keep the public informed about the project and progress on construction.
County Commissioner Joe Davis said the public needs to be well informed about how the intersection will work well before the interchange opens.
“The sooner people know which lane they need to be in, because if you're going north on 181 and you're in the left lane, you're going to Mobile whether want to or not,” Davis said.
He said the road is too busy to allow changes if drivers pick the wrong lane.
“The key is knowing where you're going and being in the correct lane, because it's not out in the country where you can change lanes three times,” Davis said. “It's ball game traffic in both directions.”
Ericksen said ALDOT will have more notices and signs at the interchange than at most intersections.
“We have a lot more pavement markings for this project showing the direction to go than we would on a normal interchange,” Ericksen said.
Ericksen said two other Eastern Shore projects are expected to be completed by June 2021.
Work is progressing to widen Alabama 181 between Alabama 104 and Baldwin County 64. Utility lines have been moved and road crews are at work to build new lanes for the highway.
“They have started grading. We are about 20 percent complete,” Ericksen said. “We are scheduled for a June 2021 completion date. You will see a lot of progress starting out there on that project.”
Ericksen said the project to widen US 31 in Spanish Fort is also expected to be completed by June 2021. Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan said he had not been told that the completion date had been moved back from January.
“When did that move back from January? That's the first time I've heard that,” McMillan asked Ericksen.
Ericksen said drainage work and the moving of utilities were some reasons the project is expected to be completed by June 2021.
Another upcoming project for ALDOT is the intersection alignment at US 90 and Alabama 59 in Loxley.
Ericksen said ALDOT will go out for bids on the project in April if one final parcel of property can be acquired.
“We are expecting to get that settled,” Ericksen said. “If we get that done, we will have an April letting. If not, we will have to go through the condemnation process.”