FLORENCE — Don’t bother asking Bill Batson and Mike Doyle when the reconstruction of Wood Avenue will begin.
They say the project is so big and complex — to be funded mostly with state grant money — that they are focused for now on getting studies and plans together.
Batson, the city engineer, and Doyle, head of the Water and Wastewater Department, are working with contractors and engineers to draw up plans and get them submitted to the Alabama Department of Transportation for approval. The contracts must be delivered to the state by the end of the year, but they say they will reach Montgomery much sooner than December.
“The initial work is mainly identifying what we’ve got there and the topography,” said Doyle, tasked with relocating water and sewer lines along the heavily-traveled route in Florence.
Batson has told the City Council for several years that the street was never built to standards that will support the volume of traffic it receives. As a result, underground utilities — many of them more than 50 years old — are crumbling, forcing cuts in the pavement that make driving on Wood Avenue a bumpy experience.
The plan is to dig up the street, move the water and sewer lines to the rights-of-way, rebuild the road bed, then repave it. It’s expected to cost $4 million.
“The engineers will have to do a full-fledged topographical map, so it will take a lot of time to generate the plan,” Batson said. “Hopefully, we’ll have one this summer, but I’m not sure.”
The City Council this week approved a variety of engineering and consulting contracts to get the project started. The city is getting most of the money for the work through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, which requires a local match of 20 percent. The Transportation Department must approve the rebuilding plan before work can begin.
The work will extend from Tuscaloosa Street, next to the Kennedy-Douglass Art Center, to the Seven Points intersection in north Florence.
“We’re trying not to hold back on anything, but we’re dealing with grant money,” Doyle said. “There are many hoops to jump through.”
The state is obtaining the money through the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle Bond program, in which the state can access future federal dollars to pay for road and bridge work that is needed now, city spokesman Phil Stevenson said. Interest on municipal bonds is so low currently, he said, that borrowing money is generally cheaper than paying the cost of inflation in the future.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.