Lives easier with bridge open

The Grants Mill Road Bridge at Lake Purdy reopened Sept. 6 for the first time since it closed in December 2009. The city of Birmingham could no longer enforce the weight restrictions for the 74-year-old bridge and, therefore, decided to completely rebuild. Construction to build a new bridge began in early March 2011 when the city of Birmingham awarded Bob Smith the contracting bid for $1.06 million.

The closing of this bridge inconvenienced thousands of people throughout Jefferson and Shelby counties and left commuters to find alternate routes for getting to and from work. But now, after opening for the first time in almost two years, people are excited to finally take advantage of the new and improved bridge.

Once elected, I made expediting the bridge’s completion a top priority. I do not think I fully realized the extent of the daily impact the bridge had on the people who relied on it until I started receiving phone calls, e-mails and even Facebook messages. The bridge served as a short cut of sorts to go to and from work or to take kids to activities several times a week.

However, when the bridge closed it meant adding 14 miles to daily commutes or having to battle U.S. 280 traffic every morning and afternoon.

For some, though, like a businessman I spoke with in Leeds, the weight restrictions made the bridge unsafe for them to travel on, causing them to find alternate routes. He said he was not able to use the bridge because the truck he drove for his business did not adhere to the weight restrictions of the old bridge. Now, he is looking forward to using the much wider bridge that has no weight restrictions to cut down on travel time and gas costs.

After visiting the bridge several times throughout the construction process, I finally had the opportunity to see the finished product at the ribbon cutting.

I am very impressed with the new bridge and I know the reopening comes as a relief to thousands of people in the area.

Slade Blackwell is an Alabama state senator representing Shelby and Jefferson counties.