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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Beltline widening won’t eliminate traffic problem

Friday, the state Department of Transportation plans to open bids on the first phase of widening Beltline Road. Work could begin before Christmas.

A promised date for beginning construction of a third lane on each side of the Beltline goes back to the Don Siegelman administration, which promised to get on the project immediately. That, of course, never happened after he left office.

The long lead-time in getting projects approved and actually getting them under way shows the necessity of thinking far into the future.

The work on the 2.8 mile section from Danville Road to Gordon Terry Parkway will cost an estimated $6.3 to $7.7 million and take more than a year to construct.

Then, the state will move on to Phase 2 that begins at U.S. 31 and finally to Phase 3 to Alabama 20.

The transportation department estimates that if everything falls in line and there are no more delays or money shortages, the state can complete the project in about five years.

That will mean that helping Decatur ease its traffic congestion on Beltline Road will have consumed a decade or more. And by that time, the volume of traffic will have increased to take up the capacity the additional lanes are to provide.

Getting bids opened and work under way is exciting, but the lapse of time is a reminder that local officials must continue to push the outer beltline, or Veterans Parkway, if the city is to ever get ahead of the traffic problems on that side of Decatur.

There are also the matters of getting Interstate 565 extended into Decatur and the Memphis-to-Atlanta highway completed.

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