Foley Beach Express / Baldwin Beach Express
Map updated August 15, 2014.
Foley Beach Express
Traveling 13.5 miles between Orange Beach and Alabama 59 north of Foley, the Foley Beach Express consists of a four-lane expressway and two-lane toll bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway (Portage Creek). The expressway was laid across vastly undeveloped land to the east of Foley and the busy AL 59 corridor. A wide right-of-way includes crossovers between County Roads 8 and 12, possibly alluding to an upgrade to limited access standards when traffic counts warrant it. Some development occurred along the Foley Beach Express at Baldwin County 8 and 20.
The toll bridge between Alabama 180 (Canal Road) and Baldwin County 4 (Brown Lane) carries a $3.50 fee for all passenger vehicles. The two-lane span totals 2000 feet in length at a height of 70 feet. It passes above the Intracoastal Waterway (Portage Creek) between Wharf Parkway and Brown Lane. The span offers a second crossing between the county main land and the coastal resort areas. Future expansion, when funds become available and traffic needs increase, include the building of a second two-lane span over Portage Creek.
Foley Beach Express - History
Initial work on the Foley Beach Express kicked off in May 1999 with test piles driven on what was nicknamed the James bridge (after Tim James, chief partner of the Baldwin County Bridge Company project). The $17.5-million project3 included work on six miles of four-lane roadway leading north to Baldwin County 20. The remainder of the Express, the 7.5 mile segment north to Alabama 59, was constructed by the city of Foley as the $7.2 million Eastern Corridor.1,3
96 billboard permits were issued prior to the opening of the Foley Beach Express before legislation was changed to prohibit additional billboards through unincorporated stretches of the then new roadway. The new restriction included areas 660 feet away from the right of way edge along the Express in unincorporated Baldwin County. Billboards were already banned along portions within the Foley city limits.2
Opening of the Intracoastal Waterway bridge and the southernmost six miles of the Foley Beach Express took place during a grand-opening ceremony held on June 30, 2000. The Eastern Corridor around Foley opened simultaneously, completing the entire 14-mile Foley Beach Express. The toll bridge and route north to County Road 20 was deeded from the James partnership to Baldwin County upon completion.3,4
Tolls on the Foley Beach Express bridge were originally set at $2.00 per passenger vehicle and $1.00 with a commuter pass. In 2004 Orange Beach City Council became a partner in the bridge with a 60-year revenue sharing deal, but money earned by city was based upon number of cars using the bridge versus tolls collected. Tolls were increased on March 1, 2007 by operator Alinda Roads LLC, which bought the toll bridge in late 2005 for about $70 million. The new rates increased tolls to $1.50 for Orange Beach residents with a commuter pass and $3.00 for all others. The rate hike was to expedite plans for additional toll booths and construction of a second span, with a possible construction beginning in 2008.5
American Roads LLC, a subsidiary of the multi-billion dollar Alinda Infrastructure Fund, again increased the toll along the Foley Beach Express bridge on January 1, 2010 to $3.50 per passenger vehicle. Rates for Orange Beach residents were unchanged outside of cash transactions, which increased 25 cents.6 Decreases in toll bridge usage statewide led to American Roads LLC, which also operated the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2013. Tolls were not scheduled for another increase however.7
Baldwin Beach Express
Plans for the Foley Beach Express included a new four-lane route northward to Interstate 10, east of Loxley. Preliminary engineering and surveying work were conducted by 1999.1 Named the Baldwin Beach Express, construction commenced in 2009 on the first stage of the northward extension. This portion included an upgrade of Baldwin County 28 South, one half mile north from the Foley Beach Express, and the building of a new four-lane roadway north to Baldwin County 32. The 1.50-mile project was completed in 2010.
Additional work between 2010 and October 2012 focused on the Baldwin Beach Express alignment at Baldwin County 64 and 83 east of Rosinton. This construction included the upgrade of Baldwin County 83 south to U.S. 90 into a four-lane divided highway, with a new traffic light added at the US route.
$26 million in funding was allocated to the extension as part of the $286.4 billion highway package approved by Congress on July 29, 2005. Baldwin County officials secured funding for the $111 million-Baldwin Beach Express ($87-mil. for the road, $24-mil. for an interchange with I-10) in December 2010. This included construction of a new interchange between the expressway and Interstate 10 at Baldwin County 68.8
A groundbreaking ceremony took place on March 15, 2013 for the completion of the 12.8-mile long Baldwin Beach Express. The final two phases of work included the link between Baldwin County 32 to U.S. 90 at a cost of $48 million and the link from County Road 64 to Interstate 10 at $16.2-million. Construction was expected to take 20 months on both elements of the four-lane highway.9
Seven miles of the Baldwin Beach Express between County Road 32 and U.S. 90 opened to traffic on June 19, 2014. Signing initially as Baldwin County 83, opening of this stretch of four-lane roadway provided a seamless link between Orange Beach and County Road 64 near Rosinton.
By May of 2014, two lanes of the eventual four-lane roadway between County Road 64 and County Road 68 at I-10 were open to traffic with two-way traffic. Work on this northernmost stretch of the Baldwin Beach Express continued until a ribbon cutting ceremony held on August 15, 2014. Completion of the 12.8-mile Baldwin Beach Express included opening of the new interchange (Exit 49) with Interstate 10. The entire project cost $86.7 million.10
Progress made at the future diamond interchange with Interstate 10, where the Baldwin Beach Express starts, from Baldwin County 68 south (west). A new overpass was under construction along the west side of the original CR 68 bridge over I-10 while grading for the westbound side ramps was well underway. Photo taken May 4, 2013.
Additional discussion involving the Baldwin Beach / Foley Beach Express includes talks of a southern extension to Alabama 182 (Perdido Beach Boulevard) through Gulf State Park and a northern extension to Interstate 65, by way of the South Alabama Megasite, a proposed 3,009-acre industrial park between Alabama 287 and U.S. 31. If built, tolls may pay for the northern extension.10
Baldwin Beach Express / Foley Beach Express Guides
- "James bridge could get going this week." Mobile Register, May 30, 1999.
- "Baldwin officials to restrict billboards on Beach Express." Mobile Register, June 7, 2000.
- "New beach road set to open ." Mobile Register, June 18, 2000.
- "Traffic rolls on beach bridge." Mobile Register, July 1, 2000.
- "Bridge toll to grow on Foley Beach Express." Mobile Register, February 20, 2007.
- "Beach Express raising its toll." Mobile Register, December 31, 2009.
- "Bridge operator files for bankruptcy." Mobile Register, August 9, 2013.
- "U.S. House, Senate approve Baldwin highway funding." The Mobile Register, July 30, 2005.
- "Alabama political, business and community leaders gather to celebrate Baldwin Beach Express." The Mobile Register, March 15, 2013.
- "Baldwin Beach Express complete open for traffic: The last interchange ON Alabama 59 is finally finished." The Mobile Register, August 15, 2014.
U.S. Highway 90
U.S. Highway 98
Page Updated 12-03-2014.