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$553K McKenzie turn lanes to become reality

After years lobbying, accidents and complaints, a project on AL-55 will add two turn lanes near McKenzie.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced late last week that funding for several projects across the state had been made available through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation Act and Improvement Program-II (ATRIP-II), a new program created under the Rebuild Alabama Act. The Rebuild Alabama Act requires ATRIP-II to be an annual program setting aside a minimum of $30 million off the top of ALDOT’s share of the new gas tax revenue for projects of local interest.

Among those projects is the addition of a left turn lane to AL-55 at the intersection of South Garland Road and U.S. 31, as well as, a left turn lane at the intersection of North Garland Road and U.S. 31. Total ATRIP-II funds awarded are $553,750.50. The grant does not require a local funding match.

“It’s going to be a great help,” McKenzie Mayor Lester Odom said. “There were 28 projects funded in the state and we were fortunate to be one of them. We’ve been begging for it ever since they put the four-lane in. At first, they did not think it was necessary. I’ve been meeting with the state every year and that’s been my main topic. They have become receptive, but money was a big factor. This grant — we were lucky to get it — will help us.”

Odom said the turn lanes are a safety factor for those who travel on AL-55.

“It’s a horrible safety factor,” he said. “Most of us have learned that when we come up on the intersection we look behind us and in front of us and go to the next one until we get an opening to go through. There have been a number of accidents down there.”

Gov. Ivey’s office said the 28 projects across the state totaled $30.13 million in funding from ALDOT. Half of the successful applications were from cities and counties that put forward local funds for a total of approximately $9.5 million. However, matching funds were not a requirement of the program.

“I’m ecstatic,” Butler County Commissioner Darrell Sanders said. “It can’t happen fast enough. Too many accidents have occurred. Mayor Odom went to Montgomery and helped it along. I think it took all of us complaining.”

Odom said he and others in the Town of McKenzie are appreciative of all of the efforts made to assist with the project.

“I want to thank everyone from Gov. Kay Ivey and Rep. Chris Sells on down,” Odom said. “We had a lot of help on this. Getting two turn lanes will help us. We’re elated. Hopefully, we can get more work later on. We’re very happy that out of 121 applications, we were one of the 28 chosen. There were more than $148 million in applications and they only had about $30 million to spend.”

Ivey said the program was important to the reconstruction of Alabama’s infrastructure.

“An investment in roads and bridges is an investment in the future of Alabama,” she said. “I am proud to see projects resulting from the Rebuild Alabama Act already getting off the ground. Soon, every Alabama citizen will feel the benefits from this additional investment in our infrastructure.”