The last week has been fun for our road network here in Alabama. I am going to talk about three different projects taking place here in Alabama that has a lot of people questioning why they are being done now, and severely impacting traffic or is about too.
Decatur Toll Bridge
ALDOT has proposed a new toll bridge to be built across the Tennessee River on the western side of Decatur to connect Alternate US 72 to Alabama 20 and Interstate 565. Currently, over 38,000 vehicles every day cross the Tennessee River on the US 31 bridges. Then traffic wanting to use Alt. US 72 has to use a surface street which is not designed for the traffic. While I don’t have a problem of the state wanting to build a toll bridge to help traffic bypass Decatur. I have a problem of taking an existing highway and turning it into a toll road.
Alabama 20 / Alternate US 72 between US 31 and Interstate 65 is currently a 4 lane highway with little development. ALDOT wants to turn the current 4-lane into a 6-lane freeway with service roads on both ends. The catch, along with tolling the new bridge, they want to toll the current route to Huntsville as well. And I think this is a horrible idea. Tolling the only reliable route from Decatur to Huntsville is bad for the people commuting every day back and forth. And if an accident happens on Interstate 65 at the Tennessee River bridges, which happen often, you will force traffic onto a toll road, and anger a lot of drivers!
ALDOT has hired some engineers to study the concept. They are wanting to base everything around a $2 toll for car drivers. Like I said, if they want to build a new bridge and toll it, I have no problem with that as long as the current bridges on US 31 crossing the river remain free. But if ALDOT wants to toll an already existing highway, it is going to cause problems. Drivers will utilize the service roads or nearby country roads to shunpike the tolls. The project to build the new bridge and upgrade the current highway to a freeway will cost around $500 million. And people commenting have already asked where all of the taxpayer money is going. Because people are getting tired of ALDOT wanting to toll everything.
Coalburg Road Closure
A lot of people are not happy with the city of Birmingham for closing a very short and popular cut-through route to connect from the temporary end of Interstate 22 to Interstate 65. A few days ago, Coalburg Road between Interstate 22 and Daniel Payne Drive was closed so the road can be reconstructed. And the road badly needed redoing, because there was numerous potholes and other problems like the base surface of the road failing. I have been on Coalburg Road a few times, and everyday there is non-stop traffic going bumper to bumper, all while trying to dodge the huge potholes!
So for the next six to eight weeks, drivers have to find another way to connect to Interstate 65. The city released a suggested detour map telling drivers to use US 78 to connect to Interstate 65. But since many drivers don’t want to deal with the numerous traffic lights on US 78, including me, there is another simple way to get to Interstate 65. When you get to Coalburg Road on I-22, turn left, go for about a 1/2 mile, turn right onto Shady Grove Road, then turn right onto Walker Chapel Road, then connect to I-65, that’s it! At least Coalburg Road is being worked on now, it should have been worked on years ago!
Interstate 22 Jasper Closure
I also wanted to talk about another very weird move to close down an entire interstate for months to redo the existing road. In the Birmingham Metro, several stretches of interstate were closed for a short amount of time to redo the entire surface. The difference, there was an interstate detour available to go around the closure. With the I-22 closure in Jasper, there is no interstate detour. And all of that interstate traffic has to go onto US 78, which is clogged with strip malls, traffic, and lots of traffic lights. Yeah, that was a smart move.
The current road has base problems with very bumpy road conditions around the approaches to the bridges. Here is the funny part, the contractor who built the original freeway won the contract to redo the freeway that they built! I wonder how that happened, other than the low bid thing. I also wonder why it took so long to come in and redo the road? And I also wonder why ALDOT did not convert one side to two-way traffic while the construction crews redo the other side? Oh well, at least I don’t travel through there. The westbound lanes are closed until early July. And after the 4th of July holiday, the eastbound lanes will be closed until early September.