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State OKs land purchases for Hartselle bridge project

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — The Alabama Department of Transportation has given Hartselle the authority to purchase property needed for the Hammitt Street bridge project.

And, if everything goes as planned, the state should be replacing the deteriorating bridge by this time next year.

District I Engineer Johnny Harris approved appraisals for four parcels and OK'd the city moving forward with rights of way acquisition.

"The next thing is utility relocation," Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

The state plans to bid the project in November and start construction as early as January 2008.

"This is an important project for Hartselle because of safety issues," Tankersley said.

State and city officials have known for at least 10 years that the 73-year-old CSX bridge is deteriorating.

In 2002, two guardrails fell on the train tracks, forcing CSX officials to close the bridge for repairs.

The bridge is the only elevated east-west railroad crossing in Hartselle. Because it has a 3-ton limit, firetrucks cannot cross it if a train is blocking downtown routes.

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

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

Hartselle mounted a successful Montgomery campaign in January when DOT tried to delay the state of the project to 2009.

With the help of Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, Tankersley said, he got the project moved back to 2008.

Engineering plans call for a two-lane bridge with knockout sides. This means the bridge can be expanded to more lanes, the mayor explained.

"We're glad to finally see this project moving ahead," Tankersley said. "This involves safety issues for our citizens."

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