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Hartselle gets bridge project moved to 2008

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Sometimes persistence is good, at least it was for Hartselle and its Hammitt Street bridge project.

Refusing to accept any more delays, city officials met with Alabama Department of Transportation officials and got the project moved back to its 2008 start date.

"This is an important project for the city because of the safety issues," Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

The bridge has a 3-ton limit, which means fire trucks cannot cross it if a train is blocking downtown routes. In 2002, two guardrails fell on the train tracks, forcing CSX officials to close the bridge for repairs.

For these safety reasons, DOT put the bridge on its "fast track" for replacement in 2003.

But when the state released its transportation improvement program list in December, the bridge had been moved to a 2009 start date.

Hartselle deemed this unacceptable, and city officials traveled to Montgomery earlier this month to meet with DOT officials.

"We just feel like this is something that needs to be done right away," said Tankersley, who said he got help from Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle.

The bridge replacement is phase 1 of a four-phase North Hartselle bypass with an estimated cost of $15 million to $20 million.

CSX Corp. owns the 73-year-old bridge, which is the only elevated east-west railroad crossing in Hartselle.

Hartselle leaders have known for some time that the bridge was structurally unsound.

DOT is providing up to $1.5 million to fund the project, which involves giving motorists a route from U.S. 31 to Georgia Street and Bethel Road.

Tankersley signed the paperwork last week to do appraisals for right-of-way acquisition.

He said the state will probably bid the project in November and start construction in March 2008.

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