Scenic Highway 98 Opens Up to Pedestrians

Wed April 28, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Beverly B. Nichols

A total of 110 construction safety barrels line a 4-mi. (6.4 km) section of Scenic Highway 98 in Point Clear, AL. They protect the crew building a trail for walkers, joggers and bikers.

Caldwell Inc. of Montgomery, AL, the company that submitted the low bid on the $1 million project, began work on March 15, and the project is expected to be completed in 180 days.

Construction began in Point Clear at Bailey Creek and involves building a 5-ft. (1.5 m) wide concrete trail alongside a 3-ft. (1 m) wide grassy area 5 to 12 ft. (1.5 to 3.7 m) from the existing roadway.

The construction is just one segment of a 23-mi. (37 km) trail that begins at Battleship Park in Mobile, AL, and goes through Spanish Fort, Daphne, Montrose, Fairpoint and Point Clear ending in Mullet Point Park.

Blake Mesingill, Caldwell’s owner, estimated the work will require 40,000 cu. yds. (31,000 cu m) of dirt and 2,500 cu. yds. (1,900 cu m) of concrete. The project will also require 8,000 to 10,000 cu. yds. (6,100 to 7,645 cu m) of top soil. Soil removed from the area has been piled along the trail for recycling.

By March 15, Caldwell had moved 6,000 cu. yds. (4,587 cu m) of dirt.

“I’ll have eight or nine employees working on this project,” said Mesingill, noting that his crews are using a Cat D5M dozer, a Cat 416 backhoe, a Cat excavator and a Volvo motorgrader. Caldwell owns the equipment.

Mesingill noted that he is aware of the inconvenience to homeowners along the trail as construction proceeds.

“We’re going to do everything possible to lessen their discomfort,” he said.

Caldwell’s only subcontractor, Highway 27 Dirt Inc., Baldwin County, AL, is supplying the dirt.

Currently, Caldwell Inc. also is nearing completion of a $2 million revitalization project for the city of Anniston, AL, and recently completed a similar project for Enterprise, AL. The firm also has done grading for the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).

Beyond Point Clear

A number of sources are funding the various segments of the 23-mi. trail. These include grants and contributions, each involving specifications unique to each segment of the trail. For example, the Battleship Park-Spanish Fort portion of the trail was completed several years ago during the widening of Highway 90. That portion of the trail allows for alternative means of transportation.

Funding for the Bailey Creek to Mullet Point section of the trail came through an Intramodel Surface Transportation Act (ISTEA) grant of $787,000, a 20 percent matching grant of $218,539 from the Baldwin County Commission and $40,000 from the Baldwin County Trailblazers, a local citizens’ group.

Julie Bagwell, president of the group, said their efforts to help pay for the trail are on-going.

While interest in the trail has increased since the work began, residents’ concerns about future drainage problems, the possibility of having to move power lines and driveway access continue to mount.

Cara Stallman, Baldwin County senior natural resource planner, said plans call for narrow, shallow ditches along parts of the trail with culverts installed to help carry storm water to nearby Mobile Bay. Crews will lay drainage pipes in the bottom of existing ditches before they are covered, creating even more shallow ditches. Water flow will be redirected.

“North of Bailey Creek pipes will be laid, while south of the creek the present roadside ditches are sufficient,” said Stallman, adding the arch pipes vary in size and will be installed under the driveways when necessary.

In the Daphne area, people are enjoying their recently completed trail, which includes a boardwalk constructed under Highway 90 and Interstate 10. This section meets a trail that connects to Spanish Fort. The boardwalk was funded by the city of Daphne, the Baldwin County Trailblazers and ALDOT.

Other portions of the 23-mi path await completion. A 2-mi. (3.2 km) through Montrose that links that community with Fairhope is in the design phase. Another trail will complete the trail on Scenic Highway 98 from the Grand Hotel to Bailey’s Creek. These areas have come across a number of costly problems currently being studied.

Photo: A truck dumps 20 cu. yds. (15.3 cu m) of Alabama’s “red dirt” on the shoulder of Scenic Highway 98 in Point Clear, AL. A Cat D5M dozer will level and grade it in preparation for a concrete walking trail.