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Beltline Phase 2 set for Jan. 11
State officials discuss 5-year plan for roads

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Work could begin by mid-January on another long-awaited road widening project for Beltline Road, one of Decatur's busiest streets.

The new 2008-12 state transportation plan lists a Jan. 11 start date for preliminary work for additional traffic lanes on the 1.2-mile stretch.

Construction will be on the Beltline between Gordon Terry Parkway (Alabama 24) and Alabama 20.

The $3.23 million project will include grading, drainage and road base preparation, paving and bridge construction, said Johnny L. Harris, Division 1 engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Preliminary utility work in the area could begin by Oct. 1.

Harris was in Montgomery on Monday for a joint House/Senate transportation committee meeting, during which officials distributed the new five-year plan.

Officials also discussed their concerns about how to pay for needed road projects.

Several other area road projects are included in the state's five-year transportation plan. Even though the projects are on the plan, state Transportation Director Joe McInnes said almost all state road projects depend on availability of federal funding. Neither federal nor state sources of transportation revenues are growing.

McInnes said Gov. Bob Riley has ruled out higher gasoline taxes, so he expects state officials to look for other ways to pay for road improvements.

"There will be no gas tax increase, but I believe there will be some positive announcement from the governor on it," McInnes said.

Possible sources for road-improvement funds include public-private partnerships for road construction and toll roads or bridges, McInnes said. One area under consideration for a toll road is a southern bypass in Huntsville near Redstone Arsenal, he said.

Rep. Lesley Vance, D-Phenix City, said officials in areas of the state with Base Realignment and Closure-related growth are concerned about traffic congestion.

Vance said North Alabama and parts of the state near another BRAC growth spot, Ft. Benning, Ga., will be most affected.

"If we do not do something to find some additional revenue, the state will not be able to meet the growth demand," said ALDOT Chief Engineer and Deputy Director Don Vaughn.

Other area projects included in the five-year plan are:

? Decatur: Add lanes on Spring Avenue from Day Road to Cedar Lake Road, set for August 2008.

? Hartselle: Construction of a $993,000 two-lane road from North Sparkman Street to Hammitt Street, scheduled to begin Jan. 11.

Harris said several road projects required for a Decatur-Hartselle bypass have high priority with local officials, but he anticipates federal allocations could put project completion years away.

The first phase of road preparation from Danville Road to U.S. 31 is scheduled to begin in October 2008.

The final phase of bypass work is scheduled for late 2012, but Harris said all phases depend on availability of funds that are not allocated now.

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