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Wider Beltline is coming
Funding issue prompts state to change order of improvement phases; conflict over utilities delays Spring Avenue upgrade

By Chris Paschenko· 340-2442

The countdown for contractors to launch a road-widening project to improve traffic flow along a major retail thoroughfare in Decatur is T-minus any day now, a state official said last week.

Widening Beltline Road, also known as Alabama 67, from four to six lanes has been delayed for more than two years, and funding issues have shifted phases of the project.

Johnny Harris, a Department of Transportation engineer, said APAC Southeast won the $6.02 million bid for the first phase of the 2.3-mile project from Danville Road to Gordon Terry Parkway (Alabama 24). He said work will begin soon.

APAC has 260 working days to finish the first phase, which is likely to take more than a year to complete.

The state recently decided to swap the final two phases of the project, Harris said. This is the second time it has been swapped.

“I understand now we’re going back to the original plan to take Alabama 24 out to Alabama 20 in the second phase because the second phase qualifies for Appalachian Development Corridor funding,” said Harris.

He said the state hopes to bid the project’s second phase this year. A preliminary cost estimate for the 1.2-mile second phase is about $3 million.

The third phase, a 2.4-mile project between Danville Road and U.S. 31, is expected to exceed $8 million, Harris said.

City officials have said they would like that phase to take priority to accommodate an increase in traffic from a 200,000-square-foot retail shopping center set to open this fall at U.S. 31 and Beltline Road.

City Councilman Ronny Russell said he understands the reasoning behind the phase swap.

“The more we can get done quickly, the more it helps us,” Russell said. “But what is now the third phase is now the most critical section of the project.”

Russell said he has pushed for widening Beltline Road, along with intersection improvements at Spring Avenue and a city/state-funded project to reset the timing of traffic lights with the aim of alleviating congestion.

“We’re at the state’s mercy,” Russell said. “We can’t control the funding on Alabama 20 and 67, but we have to be persistent with the federal government. It’s important to keep our needs in front of the legislators.”

The city is preparing to widen Spring Avenue to allow for smoother traffic flow around one of its major retail centers.

Jim Ray, a city engineer, said utility conflicts delayed work there. He said the city erected signs Friday to notify drivers of the coming changes.

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