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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2007
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Orr says final Beltline project could come in '09

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — There is no guarantee, but state transportation officials will consider widening the busiest section of Beltline Road in 2009 instead of 2010, a lawmaker said Wednesday.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said Don Arkle, assistant chief engineer at the Alabama Department of Transportation, promised to look into the possibility of widening the section from Danville Road to U.S. 31 sooner.

The section is the busiest part of the Beltline.

Orr met with Arkle and Gov. Bob Riley about the matter in Montgomery on Wednesday. Transportation Director Joe McInnes and Deputy Transportation Director Don Vaughn, who were to meet with Orr, were called to South Alabama to look at a bridge problem on U.S. 98.

But Orr said Arkle knows the need in Decatur and promised to consider moving up the project. Orr said Riley is familiar with the Beltline from his days as a chicken farmer and promised to keep up with its progress as well.

The Danville Road to U.S. 31 issue first surfaced last week after Alabama DOT released its annual update of its five-year plan for transportation. The plan had no heading for the Danville Road to U.S. 31 section that local officials thought was the next step in the widening plan.

Orr, Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, and other area officials began calling Montgomery to find out why the project was not in the plan. The omission turned out to be an error

"That means there will not be a large gap between the end of Phase 2 and the beginning of Phase 3," Orr said. "That is what we were hoping for."

Widening is already under way for a section of Beltline Road between Gordon Terry Parkway and Danville Road, with completion expected by mid-2008. Work is set to begin in January on widening the Beltline between Gordon Terry Parkway (Alabama 24) and Alabama 20.

Lawmakers said they were concerned that if left uncompleted for a longer period, the four-lane Danville Road to U.S. 31 part of the road would become a bottleneck for traffic from the six-lane sections.

They also wanted assurance that work on the busy section would be done while Riley is still in office. His term ends in 2010.

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