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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, 2007
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Beltline workday ends before rush hour

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

The long-awaited Beltline Road widening project began Tuesday morning, but crews were long gone for the day by the time rush-hour traffic rolled through.

Starting at 8 a.m., a backhoe spent most of the day digging in the median closest to where traffic exits Alabama 24, and crosses over to the Beltline’s northbound lanes. That backhoe was sitting dormant, however, by 4:45 p.m.

Katie Glasgow said she didn’t know that the project was starting but expressed surprise that she didn’t have to sit in a jam before she stopped to get gas at the Texaco at Beltline and Old Moulton roads.

“It usually backed up anyway,” the 16-year-old Dunbarten area resident said. “And now that they’ve started working, I’m sure it will get worse.”

Franklin Kirkham of Gold Ridge Drive Southwest travels the Beltline daily to his electrician job in Huntsville. He said he knew that officials were talking about the project. He didn’t know that crews were starting Tuesday.

“It’s not bad in the mornings, but it’s pretty bad at night,” Kirkham said of the traffic jams. “I guess I’ll have to find another route.”

Both said they would avoid the Beltline if possible. Glasgow said she isn’t sure the project will fulfill the goal of alleviating traffic jams.

“It may create more of a problem, kind of like malfunction junction in Birmingham,” Kirkham said of the area where Interstates 65, 59 and 20 intersect.

APAC Construction of Huntsville is beginning work on Phase 1, a $6.1 million project that could take 18 months, of the three-phase project. They will expand the four-lane, 2.3-mile spur between Cedar Street Southwest (just past Danville Road at Barnhill’s Buffet) and Alabama 24 into a six-lane highway. Most of the widening work will be in the medians, as workers add third lanes to the north and south lanes.

The first section will extend to Old Moulton Road. Workers will close the inside of the south lanes and, when finished, move over and close the inside of the north lanes.

Marvin Pendergrass, APAC construction manager, said he watched traffic most of Tuesday and was pleased with the traffic flow.

‘Great day’

“We got a great day to get started,” Pendergrass said.

APAC will do most of the work during the day. Crews will try to keep at least three lanes open whenever possible, but several times during the project the company will have work at night, blocking both lanes in one direction and cutting traffic down to two lanes.

Pendergrass said the first night shift could occur within the next two weeks.

“The road is so wide and it has so many cuts in it that it won’t be a difficult project,” Pendergrass said.

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