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Area road projects could face delays

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

MONTGOMERY — Area highway projects could face delays while state engineers ensure construction specifications protect the environment.

State road projects that involve grading will get an additional layer of scrutiny. The goal is to make sure contracts for the projects include procedures to protect the environment, officials say.

In one Mobile County project under way last month, run-off from construction sediment got into a lake that supplies Mobile's drinking water.

Because of the added scrutiny, construction on Phase 2 widening of Beltline Road may not begin in January as Alabama Department of Transportation engineers review specifications.

The new Tanner interchange on Interstate 65 may face a few weeks' delay as well.

Even on an adjusted schedule, construction on Beltline widening Phase 2 between Gordon Terry Parkway (Alabama 20) and Alabama 24 should begin by March, DOT District 1 Engineer Johnny L. Harris said.

The goal is to minimize the impact that construction has on the environment, Harris said.

Environmental concerns became an issue last month after a project to widen U.S. 98 in Mobile County sent alarming amounts of sediment into waters that supply Mobile's drinking water. DOT Deputy Director and Chief Engineer Don Vaughn then ordered the environmental review.

Harris said DOT has controls in place to protect the environment and the review process will make sure that plans detail that information.

"There is heightened awareness and it is important," Harris said. "We hope we can get a start on this here and not have it become a problem in North Alabama."

Harris said engineers will look at environmental control specifications in about five other upcoming District 1 projects as a result of Vaughn's order.

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