Shelby, Talladega Counties renew discussions about building a bridge over Coosa River

Published 10:50am Monday, July 29, 2013

By STEPHANIE BRUMFIELD / Staff Writer

Talladega County has expressed interest in building a bridge over the Coosa River at the old Perkins Ferry landing site to spur economic development within the county, but Shelby County officials have concerns about road repair costs that would result from increased traffic in the area. An agreement has yet to be reached between the two counties.

The proposed bridge would link Talladega’s Russell Chapel Road with Shelby County 28 east of Columbiana. Greg Atkinson, Talladega County Commissioner for District 5, said building a bridge at that location would benefit his area of the county “tremendously” by providing quicker access to Interstate 65, reducing traffic on Alabama 280, increasing traffic to the south end of Talladega County, increasing revenue and creating more jobs.

“We want our county to grow and expand,” Atkinson said. “Really the only option to increase services for residents of our county is to increase revenue, and the only way to increase revenue is to increase the number of businesses and to increase jobs.”

Atkinson said a bridge at that location would make these things possible.

Randy Cole, County Engineer for Shelby County, said Talladega County officials would need to conduct an origin-destination study to determine traffic patterns before Shelby County would consider granting them an access permit to build the bridge.

Without such a study, Cole said there is no way to determine the kind or amount of traffic that might travel the new route in Shelby County or Talladega County. Such a study would also reveal where that traffic would go, he said.

If the proposed bridge were to increase 18-wheeler traffic between the two counties, Cole said “millions of dollars worth of work” would need to be done on Shelby County roads. He estimated between $5-$10 million would need to be spent resurfacing nearby county roads to account for the increase in truck traffic.

“We would not consider granting them an access permit on Shelby County 28 unless they were prepared to make substantial improvements to affected roads,” Cole said.

Atkinson said discussions about the bridge began about 12 years ago, but an agreement was never reached because Talladega County didn’t have the money to fund the bridge. Since then, Talladega County has set up a bridge fund, which currently holds about $5 million that could be used as seed money to fund the bridge, Atkinson said. The estimated cost for the bridge is $36-$40 million, he said.

Officials from both counties had discussed moving the proposed bridge location about five miles up the river, but Alabama Power officials disagreed with the new location because of a nearby coal field, Atkinson said.

“We’re not trying to force this on anybody, but we want to come together for something that would be mutually beneficial for both sides,” Atkinson said. “Until we’ve got an agreement, we can’t do anything.”

Atkinson said Talladega County officials already have a blueprint that could be used if an agreement were reached, and the main cost for the project could be covered by grant money the county wants to apply for.

Besides an agreement, Atkinson said Talladega County would need a list of road improvements that would need to be completed on the Shelby County side of the river to know what to include in the price should Talladega County apply for a grant.

“Once we get the go-ahead, the actual construction would take 2-4 years,” Atkinson said.

“We hope to have some more discussions with officials on that side. Some of the differences need to be worked out.”

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