Shoals officials learned Monday that several highway improvement projects were among more than 300 approved for funding through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program.
The three largest projects involve rebuilding a section of Wood Avenue in Florence, widening Avalon Avenue between Cox Boulevard and Montgomery Avenue in Sheffield and Tuscumbia, and replacing a bridge over Little Bear Creek in Colbert County.
With Monday’s announcement, 439 road and bridge projects statewide have been approved since Gov. Robert Bentley unveiled the initiative in March. The program, commonly referred to as ATRIP, is the largest road and bridge improvement project in Alabama’s history.
“Everyone benefits from ATRIP,” Bentley said. “We’re improving public safety by replacing old bridges and repairing and widening outdated roads. ATRIP also helps create jobs. When companies build new facilities, they look for areas with good roads and bridges. ATRIP is giving them what they need.”
Nearly $4 million was approved to rebuild Wood Avenue, from Peck Ace Hardware near Seven Points to East Tuscaloosa Street near the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library.
“We’re excited about having the opportunity to make Wood Avenue a more modern thoroughfare, and hopefully keep it from falling apart,” Florence Mayor Mickey Haddock said. “By working with the county, it gets all our projects funded and leaves us eligible for the next round of funding.”
Wood Avenue is one of Florence’s most heavily traveled streets, connecting downtown and the University of North Alabama with retail and residential areas to the north. The roadbed, however, is crumbling and causing water and sewer line failures.
The work along Wood Avenue will include relocating utilities along the nearly mile-long route. The roadbed will be rebuilt and the surface repaved.
City officials said they will apply in the next round of ATRIP requests for money to rehabilitate West College Street and build a bridge over Cypress Creek, connecting the city directly to Alabama 20 and the city’s sports complex.
The mayors of Sheffield and Tuscumbia were equally excited to learn nearly $5 million was approved to add additional lanes to Avalon Avenue, from roughly Cox Boulevard to Montgomery Avenue at Helen Keller Hospital.
That stretch of Avalon Avenue is in Sheffield and Tuscumbia.
“That is fantastic news,” Tuscumbia Mayor Bill Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker, the former division engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said that portion of Avalon Avenue will be widened to five lanes, including a center turn lane.
With the approval of funding, Shoemaker said work can now move into the preliminary engineering stage.
“I’m extremely happy,” Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford said. “I felt pretty confident, but you never know.”
Funding was approved to add additional lanes to Avalon Avenue between Wilson Dam Road and Webster Street near the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals.
Colbert County Engineer John Bedford said he anticipates work on the new bridge on Frankfort Road that crosses Little Bear Creek will not begin until later this year or early 2014.
“I would hope we could go to contract this year,” Bedford said. “We’ve been given notice to proceed on preliminary engineering.”
The governor approved $1.4 million for the bridge replacement.
ATRIP money pays for 80 percent of a project’s construction costs.
The remaining 20 percent must be paid by a local government. ATRIP funding does not cover preliminary engineering or right of way acquisition costs.
The Colbert County Commission borrowed $500,000 so it could apply for about $2.5 million in program funds. Bedford said he expects to have money left over to apply for additional grant money during the third application round.
“I hope we can maximize the money we borrowed,” he said.
The governor also approved four improvement projects in Franklin County and five in Lauderdale County.
The Lauderdale County projects involve replacing four culvert-style bridges and a $1 million resurfacing project on four roads.
Lauderdale County Engineer Ken Allamel said the bridges are small, but their weight limits prohibit school busses from crossing.
“These are the ones giving the school busses the most trouble,” Allamel said.
Preliminary engineering and design work will be done in house. Allamel does not expect construction to begin until the end of the year or the first of 2014.
Since the program involves federal money, federal guidelines involving road and bridge construction must be followed.
Allamel said he expects to apply for ATRIP funding to replace up to nine more posted bridges during the next application round.
Franklin County Engineer David Palmer said his projects are spread throughout the county, from Russellville to Red Bay and Hodges.
“We’re proud to get this money,” Palmer said. “These are all really good projects that will benefit the entire county.”
Rod Ellis, county transportation engineer with the transportation department, said the state will assist with the projects.
“These projects will be bid through state services and administered like any other federal aid project,” Ellis said.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.
Robert Palmer and Tom Smith contributed to this story.
Local road projects approved through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation Improvement Program:
Frankfort Road bridge replacement; Total cost: $1.4 million ($280,000 local).
Widening Avalon Avenue from Wilson Dam Road to Webster Street, Muscle Shoals; Total cost: $3.98 million ($795,000 local).
Adding lanes and resurfacing on Avalon Avenue from Cox Boulevard to Montgomery Avenue, Sheffield/Tuscumbia; Total cost: $4.85 million ($970,000 local).
Bridge and resurfacing on Franklin 22; Total cost: $604,000 ($121,000 local).
Resurfacing Golden Road and bridge culvert replacement, Red Bay; Total cost: $772,000, ($146,000 local).
Turning lanes and deceleration lanes on Alabama 172, Hodges; Total cost: $203,000, ($41,000 local).
Resurfacing Madison Street and intersection improvements at U.S. 43 and LaGrange Road, Russellville; Total cost: $225,000, ($45,000 local).
Resurfacing portions of Lauderdale 8, 16, 47 and 26; Total cost: $1.02 million, ($204,000, local).
Bridge culvert replacement on Lauderdale 87; Total cost: $430,000, ($86,000 local).
Bridge culvert replacement on Lauderdale 25; Total cost: $430,000, ($86,000 local).
Bridge culvert replacement on Lauderdale 187; Total cost: $410,000, ($82,000 local).
Bridge culvert replacement on Lauderdale 94; Total cost: $410,000, ($82,000 local).