The bridge, adjacent to the intersection of Alabama 76 near the Piggly Wiggly store, is needed because the current bridge does not meet load requirements for some heavier trucks. “It hinders the flow of industrial equipment and any heavy loads that have to come in this direction,” said ALDOT 4th Division Engineer DeJarvis Leonard.
He said the state considers replacing the bridge a top priority, because heavy truckloads have to be detoured to other routes.
ALDOT’s plan calls for the center of the new bridge to be about 55 feet west of the center of the existing bridge. New approaches on both sides would extend from Auto Zone to Robin’s Restaurant. The existing bridge is about 65 feet wide, and the new bridge would be 88 feet wide, including four through lanes, a center turn lane and paved shoulders.
Leonard said the bridge will have to be taller and longer and have thicker girders than the existing bridge, so the road level will be higher than at present.
The state’s plan is to build enough of the new bridge to handle four lanes of traffic, close the existing segment of U.S. 280 and reroute traffic onto the partially built road and bridge, then tear down the old bridge before completing the new bridge.
The project would be built to accommodate a 45 mph speed limit.
Traffic on U.S. 280 would not be detoured, but traffic on Alabama 76 would be detoured to Alabama 235 (Plant Road) along the same route that was used when bridges on 235 were replaced several years ago. In that case, cars and trucks were rerouted to 76 through downtown Childersburg. Leonard said there would be less truck traffic involved in the detour because much of the city’s truck traffic travels on 280 and 235.
When a final plan is approved, Leonard said, the state will have certified appraisers determine fair market value of the land that would be bought for the construction. The state would make offers to the property owners based on those appraisals, and if the property owners are unhappy with the offers, they could appeal first through probate court, then through circuit court.
“We’re required by federal regulations to make the individual whole,” Leonard said, explaining that the aim is to satisfy property owners that they are getting a fair price for their land.
Property owners who would be affected along the route are Wesley and Nora Bowden, Allen Oil Company, Earl Wesson Jr., TLC Properties, Rebecca McManus, Pinnacle Communities Riverwalk, Virginia Hunt Mays, Fred and Beth Thompson and Lattaco.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Wesson said after viewing the proposal. The proposed right of way runs right through his air conditioning shop, taking in about two-thirds of his 2.5 acres.
“This is the first time I’ve seen the proposal. I know we need the bridge,” Wesson said.
The proposal would also require relocating the historic marker near the intersection of 280 and Childersburg-Fayetteville Highway and its flagpoles, but would not affect the city’s water tank nearby.
Construction is targeted to begin in spring of 2015, Leonard said. Interested citizens were encouraged to give written comments during Tuesday’s public involvement meeting, and a design hearing will be scheduled for January or February, when a more detailed design will be unveiled. Once the final plan is authorized, ALDOT will begin making offers to buy the needed right of way, Leonard said.