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The Future of Alabama's Roads

Houston County Touts Road and Bridge Progress, Concerns Loom

By Greg Phillips via The Dothan Eagle

The Houston County Road and Bridge Department accomplished quite a bit in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

County Engineer Barkley Kirkland explained in a presentation to the county commission Monday morning that five road resurfacing projects were completed in the last year, almost exclusively funded by state and federal dollars. 

Memphis Church Road, Omussee Road, Trawick Road, Webb to Kinsey Road/Broad Street and Smithville Road/County Road 33 cost about $3 million to resurface, with about $2.5 million of that covered by state or federal money.

The department also completed a number of special projects, including a four-month storm cleanup project that proved costly.

The department was also recognized by the state and private contractors for an innovative new bridge bearing pad replacement method involving airbags.

However, despite all that good news, a major concern looms – at least $30 million in county roads in need of resurfacing.

These roads are considered off system, meaning they aren’t eligible for state or federal funding.

“We weren’t able to do any resurfacing on county roads. It was all on-system roads,” said Chairman Mark Culver. “We’ve got over $30 million in county roads that are in desperate need of resurfacing, and it has to come out of county coffers. This budget year, we had two we wanted to fund. In the first pass we cut that down to one, and we couldn’t even leave that in the budget. We had to take that out.”

Kirkland estimates the resurfacing need at closer to $40 million.

“We have $40 million worth of off-system roads we have estimates on right now, but there’s no money,” he said. “We have a huge resurfacing need out there.”

Culver said county leaders must determine soon how to address the need.

Kirkland said it costs about $130,000 per mile to pave a road.

Overall, Culver said he was pleased with the department’s work.

“We got a lot of work done, and obviously you think of our road and bridge as doing road paving, resurfacing and ditch work, but we do a lot of other things too in the community, and we’re glad to do that to help volunteer fire departments and other agencies,” Culver said, referring to the county helping with parking lots and other projects. “It makes us a good community citizen.”

The biggest impact came from the switch to automated garbage pickup in the sanitation department, according to Culver.

“We were able to cut employment, and at the same time it’s been very successful,” he said. “People like it. It’s helped keep our roads clean. The sanitation change had an impact immediately countywide.”

District 3 Commissioner Jackie Battles echoed those sentiments.

“Automated garbage has led to cleaner streets,” he said during the meeting. “You don’t see garbage flying off the back of the trucks anymore.”

Road and Bridge Work Continues on Lawrence County Road 150

By Jeff Edwards via The Moulton Advertiser
A portion of County Road 150 will be closed for at least another five months while a major bridge project is ongoing, County Engineer Ben Duncan said.

Two bridges, a main bridge and a relief structure over Crooked Creek, located about three miles north of Ala. 157 are being replaced to improve water flow and prevent the road from flooding in heavy rain.

Duncan said approximately 10 percent of the project has been completed.

“The project is coming along well,” Duncan said. “They’ve got the main span bridge completely removed and have the main piling driven on it. They’ve got a little more piling (supports) left on it.”

Duncan said he believes the main bridge will be completely replaced before the construction crew moves on to the relief structure.

B.H. Craig Construction, of Florence, received the bid to do the project.

Not only will the road be receiving new bridges, it will also be elevated to increase the opening between the bottom of the bridge and the ground, allowing more water to flow underneath the bridge instead of spilling onto the roadway.

“We are raising the existing grade five feet and spanning the flood zone,” Duncan said. “The new road elevation will be five feet higher than it is now.”

Duncan said the road previously had to be closed numerous times due to flooding, which was an inconvenience to drivers and especially school bus routes.

“We have to close that road seven or eight times a year due to flooding.” Duncan said. “This project will all but eliminate that. (The water) will still over-top in certain rain events, but not near the frequency we’re having now.”

While the bridges are being replaced, Duncan said drivers can detour by Taylor Camp, on County Road 254. The detour is about five miles, Duncan said.

Bridges aren’t the only thing going in on County Road 150. A portion of the road is also being repaved.

A portion of the road, from Ala. 20 north to Ala. 101, is receiving repaving work, which should be completed in the next couple of weeks, Duncan said.

“They’ve completed all the patching and the leveling and we’re just waiting on the finished surface,” he said.

The $1.4 million bridge project is being funded 100 percent by the state through its ATRIP program. The paving project is being 80 percent funded by the state’s ATRIP program, with a 20 percent match from the county.

Road Construction Impacts Alabama Game Day Traffic

By Jennifer Edwards via ABC13 Tuscaloosa

Thousands of people will soon be heading to Tuscaloosa for the Alabama Crimson Tide’s first home game, but with two major construction projects underway in the area, getting there may be a little bit more difficult than years past.

With construction barrels and road closures comes traffic and major headaches.

If you are taking Interstate 20/59 on Saturday, it is important to know there will be back-ups.

“All of the lanes are open but it requires a lane shift for cars and naturally it causes people to slow down, and in doing so, there’s a back up that you’ll see, which appears to be a back up from the Mercedes Plant to Bryant Denny, which is not always the case, its just a temporary back up until you get through construction zone on 20/59,” said Bruno Event Team President Gene Hallman.

The University of Alabama is encouraging fans to use alternative routes, such as Highway 216 or Highway 11, which some are in favor of.

“It be busy it stays very busy,” said Shell Employee, Shelby Herring.

Herring works at the Shell at the Brookwood/Vance exit off 20/59 which is just a couple of miles before construction begins.

Herring told ABC 33/40 they are looking forward to the business.

“People going to get off here to hit Highway 11 or 216 to go to the games because we’ve got the signs to go through the back roads to lead you to the stadium, so there’s going to  be a lot more people coming in that way so its going to pick up our sales a lot more,” Herring said.

Either route will get you to your destination, but if you chose to take Highway 11, keep in mind there is road work on University Boulevard.

“The Alberta bridge in Alberta City is under construction and is out but there is a very easy detour that will be clearly marked,” Hallman said.

Hallman suggests giving yourself plenty of time.

For directions and more information about the alternative routes visit, http://www.uagameday.com

Transportation Hearing Offers Insights on Public Roads in Chambers County

By Cy Wood via The Valley-Times Daily News

LaFAYETTE — Chambers County residents can get a look at the county’s transportation plan Monday, Sept. 21 at a public hearing in LaFayette beginning at 6 p.m. The transportation plan is the next logical step for the county to take as it wraps up a sizable road improvement program under the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program.

Chambers County Engineer Josh Harvill said ATRIP enabled the county to get a lot of needed road work done on an accelerated schedule, thanks to the infusion of almost $13 million in road and bridge money over a three-year period. Harvill noted this was like getting 20 years of federal highway funds in a three-year period.

“The ATRIP investment in Chambers County has produced the replacement of three deficient bridge structures and over 56 miles of road improvements,” Harvill said. “The road and bridge projects have directly impacted over 750 residents living along the county routes with ATRIP improvements, improved the mobility of over 21 school buses carrying approximately 1,000 students, sustained or created jobs for 19 contractors and five consulting firms including one local contractor from within the County. It is estimated that citizens of Chambers County received an estimated benefit of $67 million due to the ATRIP investment on the 17 county projects.”

One example of an ATRIP project recently completed in Chambers County is improvements to County Road 62 (from Count Road 54 east to State Road 77), Harvill said. The resurfacing project invested $1,114,545 (a combination of 80 percent federal and 20 percent local funds) to provide needed roadway maintenance and safety improvements, benefiting over 50 homes, four churches, and one business located on the road along with several homes, churches, and businesses from the surrounding communities of Union Hill, Trammel Crossroads and Tiller Crossroads.

In addition to the residential impacts in the area, the project has improved access to 1,700 acres of timber land (property values exceeding $3 million) and 640 acres of farm land (property values exceeding $1.4 million) that will aid in the movement of goods from the farm to the market. “The projects funded under ATRIP could not have been done without this special program,” Harvill said, “but now the county must deal with its road situation without extra money coming in from the state.”

Harvill cited a 2010 study by the Association of County Engineers of Alabama entitled “A Silent Crisis.” The study indicated that Chambers County should be expending $4.979 million each year to resurface its 437 mile paved road network on a 15- year cycle. The study also reveals that an additional $1.146 million annual expenditure is needed to replace and rehabilitate the 146 county-owned bridge structures on a 50-year cycle.

The combined annual investment needed in Chambers County to preserve and improve the existing paved roads and bridge structures is $6.125 million, or a little less than half of the entire ATRIP investment.

“With all current financial resources directed towards almost exclusively maintenance activities, Chambers County is situated like most Alabama counties,” Harvill said. “The needed investments to improve and preserve the county’s road and bridge network represent a 200-increase in the amount available for Chambers County to perform basic maintenance activities.

Harvill said he hoped county residents would attend the hearing Monday so they can see what the highway department and the county commission are trying to do with the limited resources available.