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State moves Hartselle bridge project to 2009

By Ronnie Thomas· 340-2438

For Hartselle Mayor Dwight Tankersley, it’s a bridge too far — too far into the future before the Alabama Department of Transportation replaces it.

Hartselle’s Hammitt Street bridge project was not among the local projects on an update of the Transportation Improvement Program that Tankersley and other members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization received at Friday’s meeting.

When Decatur Mayor Don Kyle, chairman of the group, asked for approval of the TIP update, which covers projects from fiscal 2006 through 2008, Tankersley, sitting next to DOT Division 1 Engineer Johnny Harris, cast the only opposing vote.

“We feel your pain,” Kyle said.

As recently as Tuesday, Hartselle officials were under the impression that work would begin on replacing the 73-year-old bridge in April. The $1.5 million bridge replacement is the first phase of a four-phase North Hartselle bypass with an estimated cost of $15 million to $20 million.

“We signed a contract with the state in November 2002 for our project,” Tankersley said. “I was not aware that it had been moved until late this week when I phoned Johnny. He found out the same time I did and confirmed it the next day.”

Tankersley said the bridge replacement is “important to the safety of Hartselle citizens and to move the construction date out two years is just unbelievable.”

CSX owns the bridge, which is the only east-west crossing in the city. The bridge has a 3-ton limit, which means firetrucks cannot cross it if a train is blocking downtown routes.

“We’re here expressing our displeasure,” Tankersley said. “We wanted you all to feel our pain.”

At Friday’s meeting at the North-central Alabama Regional Council of Governments, Tankersley learned that the best-case scenario for starting bridge construction is January 2008. And that would come only if an intense lobbying effort at DOT offices in Montgomery pays off. Otherwise, it would be January 2009.

Harris said that while the project may be delayed it is not dead.

“It’s a matter of timing. When construction projects are needed, no money is ever set aside for the whole completion of the project but rather in phases and those are just target dates,” he said. “We always maintain a three-year balance.”

Kyle told Tankersley that the group will work with Hartselle to “give all the support we can.”

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