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Decatur commute could get faster
City council considers constructing road from Modaus to Auburn to reduce rush-hour traffic; cost unknown

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

Residents living near Jack Allen Park in Southwest Decatur could soon notice a dramatic change in their morning commutes: a shorter drive.

No, their workplaces and schools are not moving closer. The Decatur City Council is considering building a road in the area.

If approved, the road could dramatically reduce rush-hour congestion in the dense residential subdivisions, which have few collector streets.

During a City Council work session Monday, members discussed paying $149,280 for engineering services to decide how best to construct the proposed street.

The council will consider awarding that design contract to CDG Engineers and Associates of Birmingham during its next meeting, Monday at 10 a.m.

Preliminary plans, according to the city's Planning Department, call for the road to sprout north from Modaus, starting about 500 yards west of the Jack Allen Park entrance.

The road would then run north through what is now private property, connecting with the west end of Jack Allen and finally to Auburn Road about two miles from the starting point.

Even if the measure passes, city officials say it will be difficult to know how much the project will cost or when work might begin.

Mark Petersohn, director of the city Engineering and Public Works departments, declined Wednesday to estimate what the city's expense would be. He also declined to estimate a time frame for the project, saying he wouldn't know for sure until after the engineering study is finished and land is acquired.

"It's premature to do that, because we don't have this finalized with the owners of the various parcels," he said.

According to the city Finance Department, funding for the project will likely come from the $2 million bond issue approved by the council in 2006.

Chief Financial Officer Gail Busbey said the project is a planned expense for the city but no dollar amount had been attached to it as of Wednesday. She said that likely would come after engineers complete their design.

Whatever the cost, most city officials agree the road will benefit traffic flow in the area.

District 5 City Councilman Ray Metzger, who represents the area, said he thought people would resist the idea of adding a road at first but would probably think of it as a blessing once it is complete.

He said he would like to see construction start before he leaves office in 2008.

While the road's cost remains a mystery, city attorney Herman Marks Jr. said some of the land acquisition could be done through simple donations, reducing the city's costs considerably.

Naming request

In return for donating right of way, one family has requested the new road be named for their deceased relative, Judge James Crow Jr.

A Decatur native, Crow served as a county judge from 1940 to 1945, when he was appointed to a circuit court judgeship. He served as a circuit judge until the mid-1950s.

He also served as land manager for the state Department of Mental Health, and he served on the state Department of Conservation Advisory Board.

He played an influential role in transitioning the former Chemstrand company to Monsanto.

While the council agenda already refers to the road as Judge Crow Parkway, Marks said it will still be up to the City Council to decide what to name the road.

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