Decatur road conditions were an issue in the just-completed municipal election, but at least 28 road projects could move forward in fiscal 2021, including 23 authorized by the current City Council.
The council included $1.3 million for roads in the budget year that began Oct. 1.
City Engineer Carl Prewitt said the budget does not include projects funded by other sources like the Alabama 20 overpass, the Beltline Road intersection corrections, Church Street Northeast paving near Bunge, completion of Shady Grove Lane Southwest and the Red Bank Road-U.S. 31 intersection realignment.
On Monday, the City Council approved hiring CDG Engineering as the engineer for the Red Bank Road-U.S. 31 intersection realignment. The city received a $420,000 grant for the project in July from the Alabama Department of Transportation. The grant doesn't require any matching money from the city.
Prewitt told the council on Monday he anticipates construction starting as soon as possible on the realignment. The project is expected to be finished as early as November of next year.
“We’re just waiting on state approval to move forward,” Prewitt said.
Prewitt said the 23 roads, or segments of road, in the city budget are those rated the worst in the FlowGIS rating system developed in 2018 by Magnolia River for the city. The funding is coming from gas tax revenues or the general fund.
“I won’t say whether we are behind or back on schedule, but the increased money the council approved will help,” Prewitt said.
Councilman Billy Jackson said Wednesday the city did about $4.3 million in paving from 2004 to 2008, but fell behind from 2008 to 2016.
“We only did road projects — except for some funded by the Obama stimulus package (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) in 2009 — with the available gas tax revenues for two terms,” Jackson said. “We didn’t supplement our gas tax revenues with money from the general fund like we had in previous terms so we only did small projects and we fell behind.”
Council President Paige Bibbee said this council elected in 2016 slowly increased its roads allocation annually until it got up to almost $1.4 million this year. However, the coronavirus pandemic reduced city revenues for paving to almost $800,000, and the council had to delay four projects until fiscal 2021.
The four projects — Central Parkway Southwest service road, Eighth Street Southeast, Regency Boulevard Southeast and Fremont Street Southwest — are in the 2021 list that Prewitt said he hopes Reed Contracting can begin this month.
“This is the biggest jump we’ve made in paving since the other council terms,” Bibbee said. “I would love to do them all at once, but money is limited.”
Jackson said he is pleased with the paving plan this council approved for the new fiscal year.
“We won’t ever get done but this is a good start,” Jackson said. “The outgoing council has us going in an admirable direction.”
Carlton McMasters, newly elected for the council term that begins next month, said he hasn’t looked at the approved road plan for 2021, but said, “Paving is my No. 1 priority.”
McMasters said he wants to look at the budget and see if there are places where money can be moved to further increase the amount of planned paving.
“I’m grateful we’ve got a plan,” McMasters said. “We’ve got to get our roads in better shape.”
Officials said in June they hoped to begin construction before the end of the year on the project to realign two Beltline Road Southwest intersections to improve traffic flow.
The project would realign the Beltline intersections with Central Parkway and Sandlin Road with funds from the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program II.
The plan is to move left-turn lanes on the Beltline at the two intersections to the left to create improved sight lines so drivers on the Beltline can turn under a permissive signal rather than having always to wait for a turn arrow signal.