In helping to prepare the 2014 Federal Legislative Agenda that city officials will present to Congress next month, it is easy to see the progress that Hartselle has made in the past year, Director of the Department of Development Jeff O. Johnson said.
Two transportation items, scheduled to be on Hartselle’s agenda for several years to come involve each of the city’s interstate exchanges - the ongoing widening of Alabama 36 near I-65 and the revived Thompson Road project near I-65. Other projects that have progressed in the legislative process and will remain on the agenda for 2014 are flood zone mitigation for the downtown area, and airport improvements.
The agenda, which is a collaboration between city entities including the City of Hartselle, Hartselle Development Board, Hartselle Utilities, Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce and Morgan County Commission & M.C.E.D.A., will ask again for funding for the four-phase project to widen Alabama 36, and is revisit the widening and lane expansion at Thompson Road.
Alabama Highway 36
The Alabama 36 widening and extension project is in phase two of the four-phased project. The completion of all four phases will provide a straight shot from I-65 onto Alabama 36 bypassing the downtown area and Main Street to end at Longhorn Pass and U.S. 31.
Phase One, which consisted of improving a 1,500-foot track at Hammit Street bridge, between Sparkman Street and Mountainview Drive near the railroad tracks, was completed in January 2010.
The Alabama Department of Transportation estimated that Phase Two of the project, which will “involve constructing a five-lane roadway section with a center turn lane for traffic congestion mitigation as well as safer ingress and egress to commercial sites and the new Hartselle High School intersection points,” will cost $9.4 million. The roadwork would be a three-fourths mile section beginning at I-65 and extending westward to Roan Road.
The Right of Way portion of Phase Two, estimated at cost of $3,636,210, includes a 10-foot piece of land on each side of the three-fourths mile section of road, equaling to about 1.8 acres to be purchased for widening and utility relocation. The city now has a signed Right of Way agreement, and signed utilities relocation agreement with ALDOT, and is currently in the process of getting ALDOT’s authorization of the Right of Way on the final plans, Johnson said.
“Our goal is to get Right of Way authorized as soon in this calendar year as we can,” he said.
Congressman Robert Aderholt secured $1.3 million for the project with federal earmarked funds from the six-year reauthorization bill, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation, Equity Act Legacy for Users (SAFTELU).
The utility installation will cost an estimated $1,094,855, and the construction is estimated at $4,379,421. Both utility installation and construction are still scheduled to begin in 2015.
Phase Three of the project, estimated to cost between $17 million and $22 million, will be constructing a partial five-lane and four-lane roadway in a one-mile section between Mountainview Drive and Roan Road. There is no existing roadway there now but after the project is completed, it will “take the traffic flow off of downtown and make it a straight shot from I-65 to Longhorn Pass,” Johnson said.
Phase Four will be the rehabilitation of Longhorn Pass, widening of the strip of road between U.S. 31and Sparkman Street, completing the straight shot from U.S. 31 to the Roan Road intersection.
“Thompson Road has been rekindled,” Johnson said.
The project is planned to widen Thompson Road putting a five-lane roadway in the 1.2 miles from U.S. 31 to I-65. This is especially important for Hartselle and surrounding areas now that the Morgan Center Business Park is completed and will hopefully increase industrial business and traffic to the already well-traveled road leading to and from the long existing Hartselle-Morgan County Industrial Park, Johnson said.
However the project has been on the “back burner” for a while. Back in the 1990s, $1.5 million was designated to the Thompson Road project and then diverted to Phase One of the Alabama 36 project to replace the dilapidated bridge. However, engineering plans were drawn up and Federal Highway Rules say that if the government spends money on a project and the project does not progress in 10 years, the receiving agency, Hartselle City in this case, would be responsible to pay back the funds.
This would leave the City paying back around $300,000 for the work on the plans, Johnson said.
Fortunately revisiting the plans for an update would restore the project.
The project is currently estimated at a total of $8,111,137. The Right of Way acquisition is estimated to cost $852,247, with construction at $7,258,890. The cost shared with ALDOT will be split 80 percent covered by ALDOT and 20 percent covered by Hartselle.
By getting the plans revisited and approved by ALDOT, and showing that “the footwork is already done,” the city may be able to seek funding from other groups easier, to get the project done faster, Johnson said.
City officials met Jan. 9 in Tuscumbia with ALDOT officials to discuss the Alabama 36 and Thompson Road projects. Hartselle City officials will be going to Montgomery Feb. 5 to present the city’s legislative agenda.
Flood Zone Mitigation
After 4-feet of water flooded the downtown shops and stores in Hartselle in December 2009, city officials had a study done by a contract civil engineering firm which found that “new routing for the floodwaters would require a hydrologic and hydraulic modeling of existing upstream tributaries and the downtown storm water drainage system” that would cost more than $200,000.
In August 2012 the Alabama Emergency Management Agency secured $244,350 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Hartselle’s flood zone mitigation. The City’s engineering firm, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, recently proposed a fee of $90,000 to design the system. In the past two years the firm has done the leg-work investigation, design considerations, existing topographical study and letters of concurrence at no cost, Johnson said.
The engineering firm proposes that a three-acre retention pond be placed at the northern portion of the flood plain, located behind the Hartselle Fine Arts Center, improving the outfall on the southern end of the project at the Farmers Market.
The project will cost a total of $325,800 with the city responsible for $81,450. There is no start date set yet for the design or construction of the project.
Other agenda items
Johnson said adding more Emergency Warning Sirens to the Hartselle area and Airport Improvements both will also remain a high priority on the City’s legislative agenda.
Hartselle currently has three existing sirens and requests funding for nine more to complete the coverage of the entirety of the area. The sirens are for warning against tornados, hazardous materials, and emergency situations. At nearly $30,000 each, the nine sirens would cost approximately $270,000.
Additionally, Airport improvements will continue in 2013 as well, Johnson said.
Construction to grade and re-contour the southern approach of the Hartselle-Morgan County Regional Airport will finish up before March, he said.
The grade work project, which received $220,000 in funding, for completion is about 50 percent complete, Johnson said.
Johnson said the airport is now in consideration for an additional $160,000 for apron paving adjacent to the hangers where the planes are parked.
Hartselle’s complete2014 Federal Legislative Agenda should be completed in the coming weeks with additional items.
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