FAIRHOPE – Work is nearing completion on expansions to make Alabama 181 and US 31 four lane routes, state highway officials said.
At the April work session of the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization, Edwin Perry, regional pre-construction engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said that the new lanes on Alabama 181 between Baldwin County 64 and Alabama 104 are almost ready for traffic.
“They're continuing work on the northbound roadway,” Perry said. “They're looking at having the traffic shifted around the end of April and the current anticipated completion of the project is the end of 2021.”
Highway officials are now working to acquire property for rights of way to widen Alabama 181 south from Alabama 104 to Baldwin County 32, Perry said.
He said work to widen US 31 east to Alabama 181 in Spanish Fort should also be done in upcoming months.
“A lot of the work that's going on is concrete items and subgrade paving,” Perry said. “They're looking to have the anticipated four lanes open to traffic sometime the middle of this year.”
Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan said the date was later than area residents had been told.
“ALDOT has told us the end of April to open all four lanes and now you're telling us by the middle of the year,” McMillan told Perry.
The mayor said residents have needed the road widened for almost 20 years. “I think, 2004 was the first set of plans that I saw on this,” McMillan said.
Perry said improvements should also start soon at the intersection of US 90 and Alabama 59 in Loxley. The department is acquiring signal poles and will start work to build up the roadbed to begin the project.
He said the final work on the diverging diamond interchange at Alabama 181 and Interstate 10 is also being completed. Crews are making repairs to gas lines and working on the height of lights in the area.
Members of the MPO said plans are also in the works for additional roundabouts on the Eastern Shore.
County Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood said a new roundabout at Baldwin County 13 and Baldwin County 32 is being planned.
“We're trying to get as many roundabouts as we can,” she said. “The cost is so expensive that really the design is all we're doing right now.”
Improving traffic flow on Baldwin County 13 would provide additional north-south access for the Eastern Shore and take traffic pressure off US 98, members said.
Fairhope City Council President Jack Burrell, MPO chairman, said a roundabout is also needed at the intersection of Alabama 104 and Veterans Drive in Fairhope.
“It's becoming a malfunction junction right there,” Burrell said. “People think it's a four-way stop and they hesitate and they go and there are wrecks there all the time.”
Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan said the Veterans Drive project is listed on the MPO budget for 2023.
Commissioner Joe Davis said local officials should study traffic growth and determine where improvements will be needed.
“With all of the dialog going on about infrastructure improvements, I hope that the county and all the cities will submit a list of things that are needed, because we all have lists of things, like this,” Davis said. “We're not making up pie in the sky. These are real and they would be real if we didn't add another person for the next five years, but we're adding people everywhere. So, we've got to factor that in as well.”