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Wider Beltline?
Wait till summer

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

Despite appearances, motorists on a busy portion of Beltline Road Southwest will likely contend with a 30-mph speed limit until well after warm weather returns next year.

Workers with APAC Southeast of Huntsville began work in March on a state-funded project to widen from four to six lanes 2.3 miles of Beltline Road. The project is between Gordon Terry Parkway and Danville Road.

Eight months later, crews have made significant progress, and they appeared to be ramping up efforts to finish the job as construction activity flourished this month.

But while crews have begun laying asphalt on the new lanes, the initial paving is only the beginning of the end, not the actual end, said Marvin Pendergrass, an APAC spokesman,.

"There's a little more to it than that," he said. "There's several different types of asphalt that have to go down to make the road strong enough for those big trucks."

Currently, crews are laying a 2-inch layer of asphalt across the roadway, including the new lanes, turning lanes, existing lanes and shoulders.

Pendergrass said that will help level the road in preparation for a second coat of asphalt, which will be applied before year's end.

After that, crews will wait for warm weather to lay the final wearing surface and finish work on drainage ditches.

Because the wearing-surface asphalt contains a strengthening polymer, it would be difficult or impossible to work with it in the region's cool November weather, Pendergrass said.

That means, while activity on the road will soon cease for the winter, crews will not likely finish the $6.1-million job until midsummer.

Depending on the weather, Pendergrass said, crews could finish the 18-month job ahead of schedule, but he could not say exactly when.

Complete widening

In all, 5.9 miles of Beltline Road from U.S. 31 to Alabama 20 will be widened over the next four to five years, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The project is expected to cost about $17.2 million.

While state officials have not yet turned two remaining phases over for bidding, they expect work on Phase 2, which will span 1.2 miles between Gordon Terry Parkway and Alabama 20, to begin in January.

Work on Phase 3, which will span 2.4 miles between Danville Road and U.S. 31, will likely begin in 2010, according to state officials.

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