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Bridge program underway

In November 2000, voters in Alabama overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1.

The proposed amendment, which was headed up by Governor Don Siegelman, called for the State of Alabama to invest more than $250 million in Alabama's county roads and bridges

the largest investment of its kind for the state since Big Jim Folsom's Farm-to-Market project over 50 years ago.

And within a few weeks, residents of south Butler County will be the first to take advantage of the bridge replacement program when Butler County opens the Brushey Creek Bridge, located on County Road 16.

"We expect that it will open the end of March or first of April," said John Mark Davis, assistant engineer for the Butler County Road Department. "They started construction on it on October 15."

Davis said on Monday that spans one, two and three for the Brushey Creek Bridge were being set, and the remaining four spans will be completed by Thursday. After those are set, Davis said G.W. Norrell, the company who is working on the Brushey Creek Bridge and the Rocky Creek Relief bridge, will bolt everything together. Beyond that, the Butler County Road Department will finish the road and shoulder work, and then Norrell will come back to finish the safety rails. "After that, the bridge will be open for traffic."

Construction also began this week on the Rocky Creek bridge, which is expected to open in three to four months, depending on the weather.

At Monday's regular meeting of the Butler County Commission, Gary Tanner with the State of Alabama, appeared before the commission to give an update on the bridge replacement program. "There is a serious bridge problem in the US. As of August 2000, the federal highway department reported that some 588,000 bridges in the US, the federal government will declare some 168,000 or approximately 30 percent as deficient," said Tanner. "School buses are detouring deficient bridges some 17,000 miles each and every school day, and many of the bridges are closed to the public.

"Currently, we have some 3,000 deficient bridges in the state of Alabama, but this will soon change. Approximately 1,100 bridges will be replaced with funding from Gov. Siegelman's Bridge Replacement program," said Tanner.

Tanner said during the first 12 months, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has received and initiated in excess of 450 bridges. He also added that a total of only 127 bridges were built throughout Alabama counties in the previous four years. "When Amendment One was presented, Gov. Siegelman's first and foremost concern was that all counties would benefit based on their prorated share of funded allocation without having to dip into engineering or general budget to make the usual federal match. A usual federal match is 20 percent match. For a project that costs $3,250,000, there would normally be a 20 percent match locally which would have cost local counties $650,000. Amendment one has been funded with state and federal monies only," said Tanner.

County Commission Chairman Daniel Robinson said, "I just think the bridge replacements are long overdue. We've been putting band aids on them for so many years, and now that we have the money I am glad we can repair them for both the citizens of Butler County and for the school buses to cross, which will save them money. Once we get them all done, the kids won't have to stay on buses for as long with the bridges being open."

"Your county engineer has been working hard, and he is to be commended," said Tanner. "There's no better tool than infrastructure improvement."

According to County

Engineer Dennis McCall, four bridges are now under construction and three more will be let in March. Seventeen bridges total will be replaced over seven years, approximately, under the Amendment One funds.