Traffic projects to keep us safer

Spend more than a few minutes at any coffee shop in Shelby County and a few topics of conversation are guaranteed to come up. College football, the weather and the economy are all popular topics, but I’d guess that none surpass traffic in Shelby County as to popularity.

Road construction and repair in Alabama and perhaps elsewhere is determined by three basic criteria: safety needs, perceived local transportation needs and, finally, potential economic development. Ask any Alabama Department of Transportation employee and they will quickly tell you safety is essential.

Joe McInnes, ALDOT director, had just such a coffee shop conversation with members of the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce last week. McInnes, widely considered one of the most effective ALDOT directors in our state’s history, shared details of how federal stimulus money will be put to work on Alabama roads, including those here in Shelby County.

ALDOT requested approximately $1.2 billion in stimulus money to fund “shovel ready” road projects across the state. Shovel ready projects are ones that can begin within 120 days. ALDOT only received $414 million in stimulus money, half of which will be spent this year, the other half next year.

Three much needed projects will be funded here in Shelby County: resurfacing of U.S. 280, sidewalk construction in Hoover and safety work on Alabama Highway 155. These projects will bring welcomed relief to safety concerns many Shelby County residents have expressed for years.

No doubt those coffee shop conversations will now turn to how on earth U.S. 280 can be resurfaced without causing major congestion in the process. Here’s hoping those conversations also include a bit of praise, too, for ALDOT officials sending substantial stimulus funding our way.