Highway 261 work gets green-light

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All systems are go for state officials to begin buying rights to widen Alabama 261 from Hoover to Helena.

The Alabama Department of Transportation received approval from the Federal Highway Authority in 2004 for the estimated $12 million, five-lane expansion.

In June, the state set aside $8.5 million for the design, rights-of-way purchases and construction.

Now, Philip Holmes, the state&8217;s right-of-way engineer, said his office must begin a tract-by-tract estimate to get an idea about the total cost of the project and then assign an appraiser to offer property owners money for their land.

ALDOT pre-construction engineer Brian Davis said authorizations for rights-of-way might not come about until the spring. &8220;We are trying to resolve a lot of drainage issues and utility problems. Pipes are not the correct size, and it is just a mess right now. Hopefully by the first of the year that will be completed,&8221; said Davis. &8220;Nothing is set in stone, but the traffic in that area is horrendous. Instead of preventing a problem, we are just trying to address it.&8221;

It is still too early to say when construction will begin, as it will depend on getting the needed rights-of-way. &8220;Most people have wanted this expansion for years now. The vast number of people affected in the congestion are in favor and can&8217;t wait for it to be complete,&8221; said Davis.

For the naysayers, Davis said no one would be affected by the expansion in the near future.&8220;There will always be opposition when someone is directly affected, but construction may take a couple years to begin, so it is not an immediate matter,&8221; said Davis.

The road widening will start at U.S. 31 in Hoover and end at Shelby County 105 around Helena&8217;s Old Town District