Stalled construction on Alabama 119 worries town leaders

Published 10:44 am Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The orange and white construction barrels that dot Alabama Highway 119 in Indian Springs were once a welcome sight among motorists who anticipated a smoother commute, but now the barrels are a daily reminder of a $2.8 million road widening project gone awry.

A Hanceville contractor hired by the Alabama Department of Transportation to widen Highway 119 from the Interstate 65 interchange to just past Caldwell Mill Road stopped work last December. Indian Springs Mayor Steve Zerkis said Kent Construction was slated to complete the project last November.

Since the project stalled, town leaders have repeatedly contacted ALDOT to learn when construction will resume. Zerkis, in the meantime, worries the project presents an added danger to motorists.

“The first concern is safety. The second concern is when the heck are they going to get it done,” Zerkis said. “My frustration is shared with an awful lot of residents. We were assured it would be done by Thanksgiving.”

Zerkis said the highway is narrower than it was pre-construction, and the construction barrels block motorists’ vision when turning onto Highway 119 from a side road or driveway.

“Parts of the road are crumbling the edges were cropped to lay new asphalt,” Zerkis said. “I know a couple of residents who blew a tire turning on cut asphalt. Like I said, there’s a high degree of frustration in the town.”

ALDOT officials say Kent Construction had until May 28 to explain why it had not met project requirements. Contractors who fail to meet project requirements can be held in default.

If a contractor is held in default, ALDOT contacts the bonding company where the contractor posted, and the bonding company is responsible for finding another contractor to finish the project. The new contractor would be paid the same rate as Kent Construction.

Efforts to reach representatives from Kent Construction were unsuccessful.

Brian Davis, division engineer of ALDOT’s Birmingham office, declined to comment on whether Kent Construction met the May 28 deadline.

Though it is a state-funded project, Indian Springs leaders assisted ALDOT in design and development planning, Zerkis said. Town officials will continue to call ALDOT for updates on the project’s status.

“Someday we hope this will be done,” Zerkis said.