Hearing set for interstate expansion

Published 7:46 pm Saturday, July 17, 2010

Area residents will have the opportunity to hear about and discuss a proposed interstate to run from Montgomery to Interstate 20.

The public hearing is set in Selma for 5 p.m., Wednesday, July 21, at the Carl Morgan Convention Center. The hearing will last for about two hours. Volkert Engineering, the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration will be present.

“The purpose is to highlight the draft environmental impact study conducted for the potential extension of I-85 to connect with I-59 and I-20 at the Mississippi state line,” said Ed Martin, a spokesman for the team. “The results are eye-popping.”

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The draft environmental impact statement evaluates the potential social, economic and environmental effects of the project. The study includes large parts of six Black Belt counties, including Dallas, Hale, Lowndes, Marengo, Perry and Sumter, and portions of Autauga and Montgomery counties.

The University of Alabama Center for Business and Economic Research conducted a socio-economic analyses for the proposed project, which indicate all eight counties within the project study area are projected to experience an increase in population with the construction of the proposed project, except for Sumter County, according to an overview of the impact study.

“Employment forecasts indicate that the counties within the project study area will see an increase in jobs,” the study states. “Economic output forecasts project that each county within the project study area will increase its output. It is anticipated that growth in many of the region’s counties will be in labor intensive industries, such as trade and services.”

The main route is planned for south of Selma near the South Dallas Industrial Park, on Ala. 41 near the Craig Industrial Park, which is home to Cahaba Valley Companies, Pallet One, Pioneer Electrical Cooperative and Rayco, among other industries.

However, individuals should not expect to see construction soon. The project is in the planning phases. The project cost ranges from about $2.1 billion to $2.5 billion. The preferred route would cost about $2.4 billion.

Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard said it is important to attend the meeting because the group will see, on paper, the prospective corridor.

“It will tell us how to react politically,” he said.

Wayne Vardaman, president of the Selma and Dallas County Centre for Commerce said the direction the interstate takes will have a direct impact on the future growth of Selma.

“It’s important to be there to understand the exact route the study recommends to take,” he said.