Five lane in phase one

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Preparations for the placement of a five lane highway through the city of Valley Grande are still underway and moving along quickly, according to Valley Grande Mayor Tom Lee.

The highway is in the first phase of preparation as of now, which is the right-of-way phase and Lee said that they are still in the process of identifying which structures will have to be moved to make room for the road.

“We know there are 130 different structures that will need to be moved, including some businesses and homes,” Lee said. “All of these places have been contacted. Some places will have to relocate and rebuild. Once we make a settlement with these people on their property, then the process of waiting for them to vacate will take place before any work can begin.”

After the right-of-way phase, the utility adjustment phase begins. That includes moving or re-adjusting pipelines, phone lines and power lines back to the right-of-way. The third and final phase of the project will be the construction phase, which has been predicted to begin during the summer of 2007.

Lee said that he hasn’t really received any complaints about the highway and most people have only been curious as to when the construction process will get underway.

“We’ve had some people concerned about road blockage once the construction starts,” Lee said. “But I can’t really answer that question until things get started. I don’t know what the blockage is going to be like.”

The highway, which will replace a small, two-lane road, will be five miles long and will be where County Road 63 and Highway 22 meet. The Alabama Department of Transportation is funding the road and will be involved in the construction process. Plans for the road were drawn out by Goodwin, Mills, and Kaywood, an engineering firm from Montgomery.

“Construction will begin next year,” said Rex Thompson, with the Alabama Department of Transportation. “The biggest part of the preparation process will be the utility phase. Widening is tedious also. You always have problems any time you do construction but we’ve had meetings with the community to hear their concerns and things are going well.”

According to Lee, the city is hoping to fix the safety problem on this two-lane road with the construction of the five lane.

“Right now, that road is a tremendous safety problem,” Lee said. “We have 4,000 people living in the Valley Grande area and a traffic flow of 13,000 cars per day on that highway. Last year, the traffic count was 10,000 cars so it’s up a lot this year. We’re the fastest growing community in the area.”

Lee said the road is one of the most traveled two lanes in the area and is full of blind spots and dips and curves. High speed transportation is a big problem considering the road is an outlet to Tuscaloosa or Birmingham. The construction of the five lane will also enhance the business retail corridor of the city, Lee said.

“This will be a huge benefit to Dallas County and Valley Grande’s tax base,” Lee said. “The growth here has impressed the state. When

you get a traffic flow up like ours has gone, corporations get interested and start looking at the retail value for this area and then will possibly move here.”

The right-of-way process has been a difficult one to get underway, as Lee and State Rep. Yusuf Salaam traveled to Montgomery several weeks ago to make a plea to the engineer for faster results. Within two weeks of that visit, progress could be seen, as residents in the right-of-way zone began to be contacted.

“It was good for them to realize that so many people here were concerned,” Lee said. “Three different school systems use this highway also and the new road will benefit them. We’re just going to continue communicating with them and hope things continue like they have.”