Feds give funds for US 331 project

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sen. Wendell Mitchell said the recent release of federal money to expand US 331 would help, but project completion of a four-lane highway from Luverne to Montgomery is still well in the future.

In July, Congressman Terry Everett (R-Rehobeth) announced the acquisition of $2.4 million in federal transportation funding to help construction along the extremely trafficked US 331.

"This action represents the last legislative hurdle before these funds are released to the state of Alabama," Everett said in a prepared statement.

Email newsletter signup

"I was pleased to support this bill and to secure funding in it for major roadwork priorities in southeast Alabama."

Four other road projects in southeast Alabama will receive federal funding.

Mitchell said he visited with officials at the Alabama Department of Transportation when he heard about the funds coming from Washington.

"What they told me was that the $2.4 million won't go far at all with the costs of road construction these days," he said. "But every little bit helps and we're grateful to our delegates in Washington like Congressman Everett for helping secure this funding. We can't emphasize that enough."

Mitchell said the US 331 project, one he said he's been pushing to finish for years, is allocated only so much state money each fiscal year. Federal funding is completely discretionary.

"We seem to be getting a little more done on it every year," he said. "I'm pleased with the progress."

However, Mitchell admitted if there's anyway the state and federal government could work together to expedite the construction, it needed to be done. Traffic conditions have steadily deteriorated as more people are using US 331 for a beach route during the summer.

"It's gotten worse," said Mitchell.

In November, Luverne's SMART Plant will be in full production mode, sending a steady supply of 18-wheelers north to the Hyundai Plant in Hope Hull.

That's worrisome to Crenshaw County Superintendent Kathi Wallace. The increased transportation by SMART will add to already dangerous conditions at Highland Home School.

"It's awful," said Wallace of the present day traffic in front of Highland Home School. "From the county line all the way to Luverne. It gets a little better once you get on the other side of Luverne and into Brantley, where the highway is already four lanes."

Wallace said traffic along US 331 has to be completely stopped before the county's buses can exit school property. Add to that the influx of parents coming to pick up their children and the situation can become increasingly hazardous, she said.

In addition to US 331, funding was approved in the amount of $22.4 million for preparation and engineering on the I-10 connector project, connecting US 231to I-10 in northwest Florida; $3.2 million was included to widen a portion of Ross Clark Circle in Dothan and over $11 million will be used to widen US 84 from Andalusia to Enterprise and Evergreen to Monroeville.