State opens bids on Georgiana road

Published 4:07 pm Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Construction on a 4.66-mile new roadway that would skirt just south of Georgiana and connect to Highway 55 is nearing a start date, according to Speaker of the House Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia).

Bids were opened this week and Newell Construction was the low bidder on the long-delayed project, Hammett told the Andalusia Star-News on Tuesday.

The Hope Hull business bid $6.9 million.

The road has been in the planning stages for 10 years, said Hammett.

“We’ve hit roadblock after roadblock,” he said.

Some Georgiana residents opposed the road because of it would run near their homes, said Hammett, and the state then had to secure property from over 60 landowners. The Alabama Department of Conservation halted the project for 18 months because it might have disturbed the habitat of the Red Hills Salamander, the state’s official amphibian and native to Butler and surrounding counties.

A study was conducted.

No salamanders were found.

The next hurdle was CSX Railroad, which Hammett said has an ongoing dispute with the Federal Highway Administration over the amount of bond required when construction takes place across a railway.

The Butler County Commission paid the $3,000 in its October meeting to settle the dispute.

Commissioner Lynn Harold Watson (Dist. 5) said he has heard the arguments about the road bypassing Georgiana, but he said U.S. 31 had bypassed the city years ago.

“I believe this new four-lane will actually be closer to Georgiana,” he said. “In the short run, yes, it will cost the city some sales tax. But in the long run – if this economy can recover – it may encourage more people to invest in Georgiana.”

The road may spur more development, he said.

“I’ve had several people inquire about re-zoning areas (where the road will be) for business,” he said.

The four-lane will also help with hurricane evacuation, said Watson.

Hammett said the road would extend the current four lanes on Highway 55 from the Red Caboose Barbecue and connect near the I-65 Georgiana exit.

For Andalusia, Hammett said the road is vital for economic development.

“It’s absolutely essential to us to improve all of our highways, and particularly those that provide access to the Interstate if we’re going to stay in the economic development game in this area,” he said.

ALDOT estimates the project will take 300 days to complete.