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Road to Nowhere?

By Harold Bearden
Thursday, October 8, 2015 | 7:10 AM

James Brown and Haleyville Mayor Ken Sunseri  Looking northwest, Haleyville bypass section one

James Brown, Division Engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation, (ALDOT) recently spoke to the Haleyville Chamber of Commerce and shared the following data on the Haleyville bypass. The project started in October, 1956. A preliminary engineering budget was approved to study a corridor from 2.5 miles south of Haleyville to Spruce Pine. Thus, it has been 59 years, so far, in getting the road constructed. 

The first engineering budget on what we know today as the Haleyville by-pass was authorized in May of 1985, and work on the corridor study began shortly after that. Public hearings were held in 1987 and 1988, with a large number of comments received from local citizens. The study had 10 alternate routes. Alternate number 4 was chosen, and finding no significant impact, the final environmental document was signed off by the Federal Highway Administration November 7, 1988. 

The first design engineering budget was established March 5, 1990 for the first section from Franklin County 79 to the four-lane at Spruce Pine. The right-of-way budget was established February 1, 2001, and the cut, grade and drain contract was let on June 29, 2001. Over the next several years, three sets of bridges have been constructed on the first section with the last bridges completed this year. 

On the second or middle section from County Road 79 to Highway 195, 65% of the design engineering has been completed. The third section, from Highway 195 at Walmart to just south of Delmar has been surveyed, but no design work has been completed. 

The amount of money spent on the by-pass to date include preliminary engineering, $3,559,000 and construction, $71,600,000. Estimated construction funds needed to complete the by-pass in 2049-2050, adjusted for inflation, $303,700,000. Brown explained the project was projected to 2049-2050 because there is no money at this time to complete the road. 

The grade, drain and bridge on the second section from Highway 195 to County Road 79 is estimated to be $136,500,000 of that $303 million. The original cost estimate to construct the entire by-pass made in 1987 was $45.2 million. Brown pointed out that due to the complexities of the existing soil, and mine reclamation area, the job of building the next section will be extremely difficult and expensive, as attested by the $136.5 million needed for the project. 

The bottom line from James Brown, there is no money to complete the project, thus it was placed in the 2049-2050 time frame. 

If it is in the year 2050, the road will have taken almost 100 years to complete.

So far, Alabama taxpayers have $75 million invested in a road to nowhere. City and chamber officials hope the next section to highway 195 can be completed long before the projected 2050 date, but other construction projects in the state have priority, such as the Birmingham northern by-pass. Disappointed with the information from Brown, officials have not given up on securing funding for the completion of the Haleyville by-pass, hopefully in our lifetime.

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