While announcing progress made in getting help from the state on some road and bridge needs, Walker County Commission Chairman Jerry Bishop said Monday that he requested the state take back some other expensive-to-maintain roads, but the state transportation director declined.
Bishop made his remarks at Monday's commission meeting.
The commission heard County Engineer Mike Short note that he and some commissioners met with the state Department of Transportation Director John R. Cooper on grant opportunities for intersecting roads at state highways.
"That is open until August. We're going to be looking at a couple of locations that continue to give us a little bit of problem," Short said, noting it involves a competitive grant process and that will involve match money. "They really don't raise their eyebrows unless there are at least 2,000 cars a day" going through an intersection.
One area being looked at is Alabama Highway 269 at the Cordova-Gorgas Road. "It will take quite a bit of improvement to lower the grade on the crest, vertical curve there where this intersection occurs," Short said. "It will be a fairly substantial project, but the state is going to look at that for us."
Down the road, he pointed to another intersection with Marylee Road, which has a high concentration of trucks as most are coming out of the backside of a coal washer, and are hauling to an export location at the old Segco mine area. "They have to make more than a 90-degree turn to enter Alabama 269, so it is difficult," he said.
Bishop quoted Cooper saying the state would not take back any roads given to the county. "I asked him," Bishop said. "I know that sounds silly. It's not silly. It's kind of funny and he took it that way, but he said they don't take them back. We had a few in District 3 they gave us years ago, and I don't know who took them and I don't know how it got there, but I certainly asked him - and I'm not through with that project yet. That takes up a lot of money that could be used on secondary roads."
District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams was not present to comment on road conditions in the district.
District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt said Horse Creek Boulevard was one of those roads, which Bishop confirmed.
"It's paved well. It's got a great base. I hope it lasts a really long time but to undertake to pave a road of that scope is enormous. Just keeping up the guardrails is costly," Aderholt said.
District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said Fall City Road was another road that the state gave the county, noting that is one of the roads being resurfaced this summer with a mix of federal funds and increased state gas tax revenue received by the county. Nauvoo Road, Old Birmingham Highway and Gardners Gin Road are also slated for work.
Davis said much of the work on Fall City Road will come from federal money, but the matching money could have been used for secondary roads.
"So when the state basically gives us roads that were their roads, yeah, it has a detrimental effect for years to come on the citizens and the taxpayers," he said.
Bishop said, "Well, we brought it up. If you are not going to take them back, at least help us find some more funds to keep them up. Hopefully, we planted a seed. We would rather they take them back. They won't do that."
Aderholt said, "Mr. Chairman, the significance of that, too, is that the state could easily give us Highway 78 now that we have I-22 that runs the same course."
"Not with me here, because I won't take it," Bishop said to laughs.
Aderholt explained a similar situation that happened in Mississippi with Highway 45. Davis said, "They can easily try to."
Bishop characterized the meeting as "great," noting Short had already turned in some information to the department and that Short did well in the meeting. He noted the intersection grants can be used in any of the four districts. He noted he wanted the public to understand the county is trying to get more help for its roads.
After the meeting, Bishop realized he had forgotten to mention the state officials have indicated it would be cooperative to getting Brown's Bridge worked on. Bishop said the funds have been appropriated. Short said the project involves a 20 percent match from the county.
"If it is a $2 million bridge, the county is going to have to come up with $400,000," Short said. "That is our intent once all the I's are dotted and the t's are crossed as far as what the state is requiring. We are in that process in trying to get it started as quickly as we can. It should be started in a period of a few months. It will have to be let," and then follow the schedule of the winning bidder.