The extreme rains and flooding experienced during April and May of 2014 in Baldwin County created many road problems. The county’s newest and highly anticipated highway project is encountering set backs as well.
When the last phase is completed the Baldwin Beach Express will offer a straight route for travelers all the way from Interstate 10 to Orange Beach. Originally scheduled to be open for summer traffic, construction delays have pushed that back considerably.
“Mainly on the interchange portion of the Beach Express project. They were continuing to do the last amount of dirt work. You’ve got to have the moisture in the dirt correct and when it’s wet you just have to let it dry out and that’s been one big problem,” said Baldwin County Engineer, Cal Markert.
A good example of the damage that the heavy water run-off caused can be seen at the new Interstate 10 interchange. The dirt there will all have to be re-graded and re-packed before it can be paved. New dirt has been brought in as well.
Officials said there were about 15 other trouble spots along the expressway that had to be dealt with. Storm water runoff caused some culverts to be blown out. Those have been replaced since the storm. There is still a considerable amount of paving, shoulder work and striping to be done between Highway 90 in Robertsdale and Summerdale. Despite this, county officials are hopeful the work will be completed soon.
“We’re hopeful, but we’re not making any commitments that we will make the 4th of July weekend,” said Baldwin County Commissioner, Bob James.
County Engineer, Cal Markert is a bit more conservative with his estimate.
“We’re looking at August now getting it open. The section from Highway 90 south is coming along great because it was all paved and grassed and they’re working on the final paving. The section by the interstate, they still had a little bit of dirt work to do and that’s where the rain really messed us up,” Markert said.
The good news is that the delays won’t cost the county any additional money because these types of weather delays are factored into the original construction contracts. Now it’s just a matter of time before everyone can enjoy a much easier and less congested drive to the beach.
Construction of the Baldwin Beach Express began in March of 2013 with an overall cost of more than $76 million dollars. Baldwin County’s investment in the project is $6.5 million.