Increasingly, and not surprisingly, more and more “For Sale” signs offering large land parcels, suitable for commercial use or multi-home PUD’s, are appearing along The Beach Express and Foley Express. No wonder. Formerly isolated farm land is now traveled by many of the six million annual Baldwin County visitors ready to spend money.
The Express was designed and built to alleviate the biggest complaint that otherwise-satisfied tourists reported when surveyed about their stays: snarled traffic congestion on Highway 59. The stop and go traffic jams, just miles from the beach, sometimes added an hour or more to their trips.
The Beach Express now means faster trips to the beaches, less Highway 59 congestion and happier visitors who return again and again to Baldwin County beaches and spread a positive word about Alabama beaches when they return home.
OWA and Buckee’s, welcome additions to our county’s economy and visitors’ experiences, have since sprung up on The Beach Express adding needed traffic lights at their entrances. Those enterprises have increased visitors, local employment and tax revenue. Undoubtedly, future developments built on land now for sale along the Express will do the same.
We encourage economic growth and support the rights of landowners to profit from the sales of their land. But more large-scale commercial developments along the Express are likely to need additional traffic lights. Soon, the Express may no longer fulfill its primary role of getting our welcomed guests on and off The Island quickly.
Instead the Express may fill with more traffic lights. More stop and go. More snarled traffic jams and visitors once again sitting in hot cars, growing frustrated. Without a clear plan for growth, the smooth sailing Beach Express may soon resemble just another Highway 59.
We are encouraged that our newly-elected state senator Chris Elliott has been appointed to a new joint house and senate ATRIP II committee that oversees infrastructure projects throughout the state and allocates funds from the new gas tax money for those projects. Road-building money allocated throughout Alabama strictly in proportion to resident population ignores the fact that Baldwin County also supports six million non-residents each year using roads and services while generating taxes through sales, gasoline and occupancy.
We hope Mr. Elliot, long an advocate for the special needs of Lower Alabama, will be a successful advocate for the additional transportation needs in Baldwin County and finally get our fair share of infrastructure money to continue the economic growth of the tourism industry.
Signs selling large land tracts for development are two things: bright signs of a burgeoning future economy and warning signs that the transportation needs of getting people to and from The Island (especially in a hurricane) are urgent and should be addressed now. A good start will be the planned Wolf Bay bridge leading into Orange Beach from Elberta.
We hope our state delegation can finally get our fair share of the taxes generated in Baldwin, which have historically funded projects in other parts of the state, sent back to Baldwin to improve transportation for locals and visitors alike. That’s a sign we’d like to see.