FAIRHOPE – Residents will have a chance in upcoming weeks to study and comment on a proposed plan intended to guide road expansions for the next 25 years.
The Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization has prepared a draft of the 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan. According to the draft, the cost of road needs in the next 25 years will exceed the available funding by about 252 percent.
“The bottom line is the funding that the department has been able to identify and make available here, our federal and state funding programs, essentially covers about a third of what your long-term is projected to be,” Rod Wilburn of J.R. Wilburn and Associates, which is helping to develop the plan, told MPO members at the group’s November work session.
The plan will be available for public inspection at locations on the Eastern Shore and central Baldwin starting Dec. 15. The ESMPO will take comments on the plan until Jan. 5 and is scheduled to vote on the LRTP in January.
Members of the MPO have been studying growth projections and current and expected traffic demands to prepare the plan for the next 25 years. The area is expected to have about $167.95 million to spend on roads in that time. The draft of the plan includes $161.63 million designated for projects, leaving about $6.32 million.
Some projects on the list that are considered high priority include widening US 98 in Daphne from Interstate 10 to North Main Street and continuing the widening of US 31 in Spanish Fort from Jimmy Faulkner Drive to Redmond Lane.
Other high-priority projects include improvements to Alabama 59 from US 31 to US 90, US 98 in Daphne and Alabama 104 from Alabama 181 to Baldwin County 55.
Unfunded needed projects would cost another $423.6 million. The most expensive project on the unfunded list is the extension of the Baldwin Beach Express from Interstate 10 to Interstate 65 at a cost of $200 million. Widening Alabama 181 from Mosley Road to US 98 is also on the unfunded list with an estimated cost of $64.5 million.
County Commissioner Joe Davis, an MPO member, said the group must set priorities to use the money available to improve safety and move traffic.
“With the growth we’re experiencing, we don’t have a single problem that money wouldn’t solve, I realize that, but we don’t have enough money,” Davis said.
The MPO assists with transportation planning for the area that includes Spanish Fort, Daphne, Fairhope, Loxley and nearby unincorporated areas.
Fairhope City Council President Jack Burrell, MPO chairman, said members have worked together to deal with the demands of growth on infrastructure across the Eastern Shore.
“Eight years ago or so when this committee was still being formed and we were learning the bylaws, we made it the decision to, when we’re given this money by the government, we can just divvy it up based on population or any other method and say OK, Daphne you’re going to get this, Spanish Fort you’re going to get this and Fairhope and Loxley you’re going to get this,” Burrell said. “We could just take this pot of money that we get and go back to our communities and the county could take their money and go back and we could just do our little pet projects, but we came together and said we’re going to work together as the Eastern Shore and try to fund the projects that make the most sense for everyone’s quality of life because, as everybody knows, if you live south of Fairhope and you work in Mobile, you’ve got to go through Daphne.”
Copies of the draft plan will be available for study at public locations on the Eastern Shore and in central Baldwin County.
In Daphne, a copy will be available at the Public Library.
Fairhope locations include the Baldwin County Satellite Courthouse -- County Commission Office, Baldwin Regional Area Transportation System (BRATS) Hub, Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, Clerk’s Office in City Hall and Public Library.
In Spanish Fort, copies will be at the Clerk’s Office in City Hall and the Public Library.
Robertsdale locations include the BRATS Hub and headquarters, Baldwin County Central Annex II, Highway Department, Central Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and Baldwin County Central Annex -- Commission Office.
Other locations include Loxley Town Hall Clerk’s Office, Loxley Public Library and Silverhill Town Hall.
A copy of the draft can also be found at the ESMPO website, www.easternshorempo.org.
Comments can be mailed or hand-delivered to Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization c/o Baldwin County (Fairhope) Satellite Courthouse 1100 Fairhope Avenue Fairhope, Alabama 36532 or emailed to email@example.com.
Comments can also be faxed to 251-580-2590.