TUSCUMBIA — Alabama’s highway director announced Tuesday that a number of construction projects will be removed from the state’s five-year plan, including widening U.S. 43 in Lauderdale County from Alabama 64 to the Tennessee state line.
Highway Director John Cooper told a group of 50-60 government officials that $4 billion in new projects in the next 10 years will be trimmed to $1.5 billion.
The projects represent construction of new roads or the addition of lanes to existing roads.
Cooper and Don Arkle, assistant chief engineer for policy and planning, said the problem is funding. There isn’t enough revenue coming to the department to complete all the projects that are on the table.
Cooper said the highway department no longer is going to tell Alabamians that certain projects are moving forward, only to have them repeatedly pushed further into the future.
“I hope this is the turning of a new leaf,” Cooper said at the beginning of his nearly two-hour presentation.
Division Engineer James Brown was tasked with telling the group which projects in the five-year plan will remain and which will be removed.
One of the biggest projects removed from the list is U.S. 43 between U.S. 72 in Killen and the Tennessee state line.
Brown said the state is going forward with paving a 5-mile segment between U.S. 72 and Alabama 64, but the remaining construction segments from Alabama 64 north are off the table for the foreseeable future.
Brown also said the widening of a portion of Chisholm Road in Florence was removed as was a project to widen U.S. 72 from Indian Springs to Shoal Creek Bridge.
In Colbert County, a proposed realignment of U.S. 43 from near the cotton flats on U.S. 43 north of Littleville to Wilson Dam Road at Alabama 20 was also removed. A proposed center turn lane on Second Street in Muscle Shoals was removed.
Brown said the completion of Wilson Dam Road from the Norfolk Southern Railway overpass will be completed.
“I’m thankful they see it’s a priority that meets all the criteria they’re looking for with the traffic volume and connectivity,” Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford said of the Wilson Dam project. “It’s definitely needed, and I’m glad they’re going to see these projects through.”
Lauderdale County Commissioner Larry Irons said he appreciates the director’s candidness, but is disappointed in the decision about U.S. 43.
“I hate to see it taken out,” Irons said.
Irons said widening U.S. 43 to the state line would provide the Shoals with a four-lane route to Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville in Tennessee. It would also make it more convenient for shoppers and visitors coming to the Shoals from south central Tennessee.
Irons noted there would only be about four miles of U.S. 43 to widen.
“It’s flat and there are no bridges,” he said. The state already owns part of the right of way along U.S. 43 near the state line.
Irons said he is concerned about the traffic on U.S. 72 between Indian Springs and Shoal Creek.
A lighting project at U.S. 43 and U.S. 72 was also removed from the plan.
Cooper told state Rep. Greg Burdine, D-Florence, that the projects pulled from the five-year plan will be reviewed, probably on an annual basis.
Cooper said changing circumstances, such as the announcement of a major economic development, could place a project back in the plan.
Brown said the new policy does not affect the annual resurfacing of existing state roadways, safety projects or bridge maintenance and replacement projects.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.