I-65 widening planned for Shelby County

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Drivers making their way through Shelby County on Interstate 65 could find themselves with a little extra elbow room in the next few years.

The U.S. Congress moved toward passing a $286.4 billion federal highway bill on Friday that will bring a number of changes to Shelby County roadways, including widening I-65 to six lanes between U.S. Highway 31 in Calera and Alabama Highway 25 in Alabaster.

The Six-Year Transportation Authorization bill was secured by Congressman Spencer Bachus (Alabama-R) and is scheduled to be signed by President George W. Bush later this month.

It will provide $48 million for upgrades and repairs to roadways across Alabama including a number of renovations in Shelby County.

&uot;In the past few years, Shelby County has experienced phenomenal growth,&uot; Bachus said.

&uot;These projects will significantly improve traffic flow and reduce the amount of congestion that has accompanied the county’s growing population.&uot;

State Rep. Cam Ward, who serves as executive director of the Alabaster Industrial Development Board, said the improvements were imperative to meet the needs of a growing county.

&uot;I believe the I-65 infrastructure is the economic lifeline in Shelby County,&uot; he said. &uot;Our future hinges on the improvements of our transportation system.&uot;

Ward said the state was now required to meet 20 percent of the total cost of the project for it to go forward and that he hoped the money would be fronted in a timely manner.

&uot;It’s wonderful how effective our congressional delegation has been in regard to our highways,&uot; Ward said. &uot;I think it’s long past time for the state (Department of Transportation) to do the same.&uot;

Ward could not immediately give a timeline for when work would begin on the expansion, which will revamp the interstate between exits 228 and 238, but he said that it would likely begin as soon as the state finished expanding an area of I-65 just north of Alabaster.

&uot;The biggest issue facing our county is road congestion,&uot; he said.

&uot;This will cut down on the commute time for a lot of people and help continue the quality of life that Shelby County residents enjoy.&uot;

Other major projects that are provided for in the bill included:

Old Town Helena Bypass involving County Road 52 and Highway 261.

U.S. Highway 31 bypass in Calera

Valleydale Road widening from U.S. 31 to I-65

Construction of a closed loop access road, bus lanes and a parking facility at The American Village in Montevallo.

In total, Shelby County roadways will receive $24.9 million for the projects.

&uot;Shelby County has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years,&uot; Bachus said. &uot;Our roadways must be updated to handle that growth.&uot;