Hwy. 36 widening questioned
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
The proposed four-laning of Highway 36, East, from I-65 to Roan Road (Phase II of a four-phase north downtown bypass) came under close scrutiny recently when more than 60 interested citizens met at city hall to ask questions about the project.
The meeting was organized by Katerina Tucker O'Linger of 811 Francis Road. Her action was prompted by an announcement from Congressman Bud Cramer, D- Alabama, of a $1.3 million federal grant in support of the highway upgrade.
O'Linger opened the meeting by saying, "This meeting is not about annexation, it's about the widening of Highway 36. I want to know what's going on."
Mayor Dwight Tankersley confirmed that the city expects to receive $1.3 million to begin the proposed $4.1 million project. The money will come from a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, which is awaiting approval of Congress and the President's signature.
"This project has been a part of the city's long range transportation plan for a long time," he pointed out. "And for the last three years it has had top priority when city officials have gone to Washington to lobby for help from elected representatives in Congress."
"Its purpose is not to increase traffic but to improve traffic flow and safety," Tankersley said. "The latest traffic count shows that 11,000 vehicles travel that stretch of road every day."
Several of those present, including Ms. O'Linger, directed questions to Tankersley and Jeff Johnson, director of the department of development. They ranged from how wide the new roadway will be and how much additional right-of-way will be required to much the project will cost the city and how long it will take to build?
Tankersley said four lanes without a median has been proposed but the State Department of Transportation will have the final say.
Johnson pointed out that the existing right-of-way is 40 feet from center on either side for a total width of 80 feet. He said it is possible to build four lanes within the existing easement but added that additional space could be required to accommodate utility line and storm drainage requirements.
"Our goal is not to spend any city funds on this project," Tankersley stated. "We'll go back to our congressmen and senators and ask for more help next year and the year after that. I feel confident we will be able to get more money from then because they know how important this project is to us."
Johnson stressed that the project will take a long time to complete even under the best of circumstances. "If the money was available today, it would be several years before we'd see road graders at work out there," he stated. He added that if all goes well environmental testing and a corridor study could be under way as early as the fall of 2006."
When asked if they will have input on what kind of roadway is built, the property owners were told a public review of plans is required.