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Residents urged not to detour off Beltline

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

City officials are asking local motorists to use patience when driving through construction areas on Beltline Road Southwest this week.

Now, more than three months after work began, crews are excavating the median from Alabama 24 to Danville Road.

The $6.1 million project will widen the busy highway from four to six lanes, but with an average of 31,000 vehicles a day using the road, the construction is leading to delays for motorists.

While crews frequently close a lane of traffic to make room for the excavating equipment, city officials are asking motorists not to use residential roadways as detour routes around the construction area.

According to Mark Petersohn, Decatur's director of engineering and public works, the increased traffic in residential areas probably isn't any faster and could cause accidents.

He said crews are trying to keep at least three lanes open at all times.

"There is no reason to go around it, when you look at the side streets in the residential areas," Petersohn said. "It would certainly be much safer for them to stay on the main road."

In addition, city officials are advising motorists to use extra caution and to drive slowly in the construction zone. According to Lt. Chris Mathews, police are regularly patrolling the construction area.

"We know the road construction is an inconvenience," he said. "But we want everyone looking toward the future, and that is a better road."

Alabama Department of Transportation expects to complete the project in three phases:

Phase 1, already under way, stretches from Gordon Terry Parkway to Danville Road. Phase 2 will stretch from Danville Road to U.S. 31, and Phase 3 will go from Alabama 24 to Alabama 20.

Expect the first phase to take another 15 months to complete, according DOT District Engineer Johnny Harris.

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