LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A proposed bridge improvement project by ALDOT in East Alabama could make room for widening Interstate-85 from four lanes to six. However, officials say any future expansion depends on securing federal funding for the project in and around Exit 60 in Opelika.
The first step begins at the Alabama Department of Transportation works to secure grant monies to fund a bridge improvement project along Interstate 85, including overpass bridges in Lee County.
The bridge at Exit 60 along Interstate 85 in Opelika is notorious for frequent accidents. This week, citing interstate crashes and poor bridge conditions, Lee County Commissioners unanimously voted to support ALDOT’s application for federal grant money to improve exit 60 and other bridges and along I-85.
“The Lee County Commission is supporting ALDOT as it is applying for some funds through the Competitive Bridge Bundling Grant from the federal government. The project would be for six total bridges and include bridges in Opelika at Exit 60, the bridge over the railroad as well as the bridge over South Long Street,” explains Lee County’s Engineer, Justin Hardee.
In their letter of support, commissioners explain 1-85 is a critical transportation artery for East Alabama for employment and commerce.
If funding can be secured the project will improve on and off ramps at Exit 60. Drivers who’ve merged onto I-85 south at that location understand how badly the improvement is needed.
“It is a short approach so once you make the turn and get with the flow of traffic, you very quickly come to the two-lane bridge so being in the third lane the driver has to get into traffic in a short distance very quickly,” said Hardee.
The bridge project paves the way to widen I-85 in East Alabama from four lanes to six. As traffic continues to swell along I-85 in East Alabama, expanding the corridor is expected to relieve congestion and improve overall safety.
“The conceptual design of this project would make the bridges wide enough to accommodate a third lane in each direction, so six lanes total, in the future should that project come down we will be ready it, ” explained Hardee.
We should know if ALDOT is awarded the grant no later than Spring 2019. ALDOT is looking at construction beginning at the very earliest in winter of 2021. The design is preliminary and being finalized for the grant submission so ALDOT does not have a current cost estimate or length of construction.
Citizens are encouraged to share their input and desires with their local, state and federal representatives. News 3 will keep you updated.