Southside Mayor Wally Burns said news that the Alabama Department of Transportation will do engineering work for a new northbound bridge on Alabama Highway 77 over the Coosa River is a good sign.
“It’s a positive. That beats anything they’ve done before,” Burns said.
Rep. Craig Lipscomb, R-Gadsden, said funds limited to $804,469.27 are available for engineering work, slated to begin Dec. 1. To allow the engineering work to proceed, he said, the construction project has been moved into the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s plan.
That gives a tentative construction date: April 7, 2023, contingent on the appropriation of funds.
Lipscomb said while no money has been appropriated for the actual construction of the bridge, getting the engineering work done is crucial. Without the engineering work, he said, it won’t be possible to seek federal funds for the project.
Burns said the money for the engineering work had been allocated some years ago, but was never used.
ALDOT is taking that money now, he said, and plans to use it for the engineering work.
Lipscomb said U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, got some money appropriated in 2010 for engineering work, but the work was not done because the project was deemed infeasible.
Southside city leaders will continue doing as they have for years: lobbying the state for a new bridge to improve travel on this major state route leading to the Honda plant in Lincoln, and to ease a bottleneck that bedevils local drivers every weekday morning and afternoon.
Lipscomb said he’s working too, on a daily basis.
“We’re working hard,” he said. “I’m laser-focused on this project. It’s one of the most important projects in my district.”
Lipscomb said the project had to set a construction date to proceed. He said he would love to think that April 2023 date will be met, but that depends on funding.
However, with Rebuild Alabama, the new infrastructure program funded by the gasoline tax increase that took effect on Sept. 1, he’s more optimistic about the prospects.
Lipscomb said he hopes ATRIP funds might be a possible source, too.
“It’s that first step,” he said of the engineering work. “You have to make that first step before you get to your final destination.”