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Lawrence in Atlanta - Memphis route plan

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com . 340-2443

MOULTON — Lawrence County will get part of the Memphis-to-Atlanta highway corridor, new bridges and safer streets if the state Department of Transportation sticks to its five-year plan, which begins in October 2007.

State Rep. Jody Letson, D-Hillsboro, released the plan to The Daily on Friday and said he'll push the highway department to begin all planned projects by their target start dates.

According to the plan, a Memphis-to-Atlanta corridor will run through Lawrence County, connecting Alabama 20 west of Decatur to Interstate 565 in Huntsville.

Letson said the state is considering two locations along Alabama 20 to merge with the corridor and plans to begin preliminary research this year.

"They have two sites. One is in the Fish Pond area, near the fire department on 20," he said. "The other site location is about where Sonny's BBQ is."

Either location would increase traffic through the county, a potential boost to industry and tax revenue.

The county owns 200 acres at the Mallard Fox West Industrial Complex on the south side of Alabama 20 next to the Morgan County line. No industries are located there, but Letson said the increased transportation routes would make the area more attractive to prospective companies.

"It'll create a lot of construction jobs and a lot of good things for our area through there," said Letson. "I think it would also help the industrial park. You've already got the river, the railroad and then a major highway. What else could you ask for?"

The state plans to begin establishing rights of way to construct the corridor by 2009.

Two more projects that may encourage industrial growth are the reconstruction and widening of two bridges on Alabama 20, said Letson.

Lockheed Martin Corp. in Courtland has said the bridges over Mallard Creek and Fox Creek are too narrow and unsafe for large delivery trucks, said Letson.

"I actually started working on those bridges way before Lockheed came because of the safety on the Fox Creek bridge. We had a lot of wrecks," he said. "Then Lockheed requested to have it widened because of their product going up the road there."

The state plans to begin preliminary engineering in 2008 and construction by 2010.

Bankhead National Forest residents also will be pleased with the five-year plan that calls for the long-awaited paving of Leola Road to begin this year.

The 15-mile gravel road is the only access to many homes in the forest, and residents have complained for years about the bumpy ride and daily dust clouds.

According to the plan, workers should begin paving the first 5.1 miles this year followed by another 5.1 miles in 2010.

The state Department of Transportation also plans to begin preliminary engineering in 2011 to relocate a portion of Alabama 33 that runs through downtown Moulton.

By moving the 3.75-mile stretch of highway between Alabama 36 and 157, the state can decrease the amount of heavy truck traffic running past schools and through shopping areas.

"The bypass around Moulton is very important with all that traffic," said Letson. "It's a hindrance to the city and the safety of residents. Plus a bypass would allow for more growth along the outskirts of the city."

Another project on the five-year plan that would help prevent accidents is the lighting of Alabama 157, said Letson. The state plans to begin installing lights between Lawrence County 87 and Alabama 33 in 2009.

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