TUSCUMBIA — U.S. 72 and the downtown business district have been frequent topics in this year's city mayoral race.
They continue to dominate the conversation entering Tuesday's mayoral runoff election between incumbent Bill Shoemaker, who is seeking his third term, and challenger, Fire Chief David Cole.
Shoemaker received 47.6 percent of the votes in the Aug. 28 city election. Cole had 28 percent and Kerry Underwood received 24 percent, bringing the election to Tuesday's runoff.
More than 22,000 vehicles pass along the Tuscumbia portion of U.S. 72 daily, and candidates say they want to take advantage of that opportunity. At the same time, they want to seize on the advantage of a picturesque downtown.
Shoemaker said he has tried to court businesses to Tuscumbia and U.S. 72, but it's difficult. He said a few are considering locations along the highway these days, although he can't disclose their names.
"This route is heavily traveled and can be a great source of retail for us," he said.
Shoemaker pointed out the downtown has seen several businesses open in the past year.
"What our goal has been all along is to try to get interest in shopping in Tuscumbia, whether it's the downtown area or out in the U.S. 72 thoroughfare," Shoemaker said. "When we talk with businesses we do it quietly, because the person who's asking does not want the competition to know they're asking.
"It's a hard thing to sell, particularly at a time when there's a recession."
Cole did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him this week. However, he has stressed publicly the importance of U.S. 72 and said the number of vehicles passing through on the highway daily should help persuade businesses to come to Tuscumbia.
"If we don't do something to generate income, we'll be in the same situation in the next term and the next term after that," Cole said during an August debate. "Highway 72 is the key to the city."
Cole said he would like more traffic lights at intersections along the highway that lead into downtown. Shoemaker, who spent much of his professional career with the Alabama Department of Transportation, has pointed out federal regulations have specific requirements for warranting a light, but Cole said he believes there is enough need to meet those requirements.
Cole said there are lights along Woodward Avenue at intersections that lead into Lowe's and Winn-Dixie in Muscle Shoals. He added there are numerous traffic lights on U.S. 43 going through Russellville.
The mayor's race is the only election on Tuesday's ballot. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.