VALLEY – At Monday’s Valley Lions Club meeting, Chambers County Engineer Josh Harvill gave club members an update on road improvement projects underway in the county,
He credited the Chambers County Commission with the foresight of adopting a 10-year plan listing priorities on road and bridge projects. Approximately 42.5 miles of Chambers Connty Roads have been the subject of necessary works as part of this plan. Some federal funds have helped this process.
There is a major opportunity, Harvill said, to secure federal funding for projects related to driver safety. He cited a location on County Road 289 between Lakeview and Fredonia that has seen much needed improvement over the past year. A stretch of road just north of the Quail Run Subdivision had been the site of many traffic accidents over the years. A curve was straightened and part of the road was raised by almost a foot. About 90 percent of the funding for the project came from the federal government.
“Straightening a curve can help prevent accidents,” Harvill said. “It may take only a fraction of a second for someone who is distracted for some reason to get off the road. Shoulder work can give people more reaction time if they do it. Saving someone’s life is priceless. If we can do it by improving the roads, it is the best thing our department can do.
The county has invested about $ 4.6 million in road improvements over the past five years.
Governor Kay Ivey’s plan to rebuild Alabama is helping a lot. It grossed just over $ 455,000 last year for Chambers County and is expected to gross around $ 680,000 this year. The total is expected to exceed $ 820,000 in 2022 when the 10-cent gasoline tax goes into effect.
“This has provided us with a great infusion of funding for us,” said Harvill.
Another benefit is a $ 3 million tax that Chambers County voters approved several years ago, as well as new funding for local schools.
“We do both large and small projects with the ad valorem taxes we collect. We can match that with federal dollars.
Rebuild Alabama provided the lion’s share of the funding for the construction of a new bridge over Waterworks Creek between Fredonia and LaFayette. Harvill said the bridge is currently open to local traffic only.
“We still have work to do on the approaches to the bridge,” he explained.
County Roads Department crews can be almost anywhere in Chambers County on any given day. They recently worked on a road south of LaFayette. It is estimated that $ 75,000 in paving will be done on this road. County Road 153 north of LaFayette will be under construction as well as roads near Ridge Grove and Rock Fence Station.
“We’re trying to make more roads and make our tax dollars go further,” Harvill said.
A major upcoming project will be the long-awaited plan to install turn lanes at the intersection of Phiilips and Cusseta roads near Huguley Primary School. This project is expected to cost between $ 2.7 and $ 3.3 million. About $ 800,000 has been spent in recent years to relocate underground utilities such as water and natural gas. The project will also include new road signs, tracing and new curbs and gutters. Around the traffic light, there will be new turning lanes in all directions. The longest will be on the portion of Phillips Road that heads north. Part of this route from Exit 77 on I-85 is already dual carriageway. This will turn into three lanes near the bridge over the CSX railroad track and head towards the traffic light.
“The state gas tax really helps with projects like this,” Harvill said. “If it costs us $ 3 million to do it on Phillips Road, imagine what it will cost to create new lanes on an interstate highway. “
Harvill said it might be a good idea to stay away from the construction zone for next year. He said he was particularly concerned about the flow of log trucks heading to Norbord during this time.
“Phillips Road is a heavily trafficked road, one of the busiest in Chambers County,” said Harvill.
Another major project is the replacement of a bridge on the Norfolk Southern rail line near Waverly in the southwest corner of the county. It could cost over a million dollars to do so. Harvill said the bridge is in a very scenic location.
“It’s near Stephens Mill Pond,” he said. “It’s a really beautiful place. “
Harvill said every project is different.
“Some roads will take a few months to repair,” he said. “Others can take a lot longer. “
There is an ongoing project to cut tree branches along the roads. It has already taken place on State Line Road, Kilpatrick Road, Johnson Chapel Road, Fredonia Road and will soon take place on CR 278, which connects LaGrange to Roanoke.
Harvill said Chambers County needs talented young people to come to work and make a career out of it. The average age of employment is currently six years.
“We have to find a way to keep people here,” he said. “We try to be competitive in terms of compensation.”
The Chambers County Roads Department has a total of 440 miles of paved roads, 330 miles of dirt roads and 150 bridges for which it is responsible.
Decisions about which roads and bridges to deal with are based on counting traffic, immediacy of need, and obtaining the best advantage for available funding.
A complaint Harvill often hears is, “It’s good that you do this project or this project, but when are you going to fix the road in front of my house?” “
“All roads must be safe,” he said. “We will continue to mow the grass and cut roads across the county. We will do everything we can to make our roads and bridges as safe as possible. “