Pelham funds studies on widening highways 31, 52

Published 10:34 pm Monday, June 6, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Pelham City Council voted unanimously during its June 6 meeting to fund a pair of studies aimed at widening U.S. 31 through the city and making several changes to the highly traveled Shelby County 52.

Through the pair of resolutions, which will cost the city a total of about $550,000, the Alabama Department of Transportation and the AECOM company will conduct engineering and environmental studies on widening the two roads and straightening Shelby County 52 between U.S. 31 and Clark Street.

The entire cost of the two studies is reimbursable through federal and state grants.

Pelham originally entered into an agreement with AECOM a few years ago to conduct a study of widening U.S. 31 to five lanes from Riverchase Parkway to Shelby County 52, but the Federal Highway Administration required the widening to extend past the Interstate 65 overpass in Alabaster.

“Federal Highway said just widening it to 52 is not considered a logical termini, because there is not a significant drop in traffic at that point,” said AECOM Transportation Project Manager Christy Cahalan.

The new study will examine widening U.S. 31 to a six-lane divided highway from

Riverchase Parkway to slightly past the I-65 overpass near the Colonial Promenade shopping center in Alabaster.

After conducting the study, AECOM will also present several alternate plans to widen the road, Cahalan said.

“It’s just a study to see what works best,” she said. “The lanes are designed to be extra-wide to possibly accommodate bike lanes and sidewalks.”

Cahalan said a major part of the study would examine limiting access to U.S. 31, as the stretch from Riverchase Parkway to the Colonial Promenade currently contains 21 signalized intersections and more than 200 driveways and side streets.

The study will also look at the possibility of straightening Shelby County 52 between U.S. 31 and Clark Street, and widening Shelby County 52 between U.S. 31 and I-65.

The study likely will take between 18-24 months to complete, Cahalan said.