FLORENCE — Removing the aging overpass on Mitchell Boulevard and building a new intersection with Alabama 20 will solve a variety of problems, according to an Alabama Department of Transportation engineer.
Preconstruction Engineer Allen Teague said the project to simplify the intersection has been around for about 20 years. He said right-of way-acquisition is scheduled for the current fiscal year with construction to follow in 2014.
The intersection is complicated for a variety of reasons. First, there is Mitchell Boulevard, a four-lane highway that connects Florence to Sheffield via O’Neal Bridge.
Then there is Alabama 20, also known as Savannah Highway, coming in from the north. It merges with Mitchell Boulevard and Pine Street, part of which runs parallel to Mitchell Boulevard.
There also is Coffee Road, which branches off Alabama 20, travels under the overpass and connects to a service road that provides access to several businesses.
Teague said there are several “conflict points” at the intersection, which the proposed project will address.
To make it easier to navigate, the overpass will be removed and an intersection with traffic signals will be built where Alabama 20 intersects with Mitchell Boulevard.
That will make it easier for vehicles coming from Colbert County to access Alabama 20. Those drivers currently have to exit Mitchell Boulevard, turn left on Coffee Road and proceed under the overpass to a stop sign on an incline at Alabama 20.
Teague said the main reason for the project was to replace the overpass because of its age. He said the overpass was built in 1938. There also have been flooding issues in the area under the bridge during heavy rain.
When the project was first brought to the public, alternatives included a series of ramps, but they involved significantly more cost, Teague said. They would also have had a larger impact on the surrounding area.
Teague said about 30 people attended a public hearing Tuesday. It was an opportunity to examine the plans for the project and talk to transportation engineers.
“There were a couple of comments from (Tuesday night) that this is a lot simpler than what you have now,” Teague said.
He said there were several positive comments made by residents about the project. There also were those who were concerned about how their properties will be affected.
Teague said at this point, the only structures scheduled to be removed are Chazz Package Store on Coffee Road and Tri-Cities Gas Co. on South Court Street.
Because it must remain open during the project, Teague said, a new section of Mitchell Boulevard must be built just south of the existing roadway so the overpass can be removed. Alabama 20 will be straightened slightly where it will intersect with Mitchell Boulevard.
Pine Street, which now merges with Alabama 20, will dead end at Crest Street. Drivers on Pine Street will have to use Veterans Drive or Bluff Street to access Mitchell Boulevard and Alabama 20.
Teague said a pipe will be installed at the overpass to allow water to pass through. He said flooding is normally caused by water backing up into that area from the Tennessee River.
Once the rights of way are purchased, utilities will be relocated before the beginning of construction.
Florence Gas, Water and Wastewater Department Manager Mike Doyle said it’s too early to estimate how much utility relocation might cost, but he said it could involve challenges.
“We do have high pressure gas lines, a 48-inch sewer and some water lines in the area,” Doyle said. “From what we saw at the public meeting, the impact to the natural gas lines and water lines will most likely be minimum. The significant concern for us will be how the 48-inch main sewer line will be impacted.”
Doyle said transportation department engineers will provide his department with more detailed plans to review.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.