ALDOT discusses widening U.S. 31

Area residents review maps and speak with ALDOT officials about plans to widen U.S. 31 during a public forum at the Pelham Civic Complex on March 7. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabama Department of Transportation officials gave local residents and business owners a chance to learn more about a plan to widen U.S. 31 to six lanes during a pair of March 7 meetings at the Pelham Civic Complex.

During the meetings – one of which was held in the morning and one of which was held in the evening – ALDOT officials presented large maps describing the preliminary layout of the project and heard comments from those in attendance.

The project calls for an additional southbound and northbound lane on U.S. 31 from the Colonial Promenade exit in Alabaster to Riverchase Parkway in Hoover. The project also calls for the Shelby County 52-U.S. 31 intersection to be straightened out, and for a flyover to be built over the pair of railroad crossings on Shelby County 52 west of U.S. 31.

The maps depicted the placement of the extra lanes, and showed which properties may have to be purchased by ALDOT.

ALDOT Third Division Assistant District Engineer Lance Taylor said the plan presented during the meeting was a “worse-case scenario,” and displayed the maximum impact the project could have.

“This is very preliminary. We try to come in and say ‘This is the worst-case scenario as far as impact,’” Taylor said.

During the evening meeting, attendees were allowed to fill out a comment sheet to turn in or mail to ALDOT, and were allowed to voice their thoughts on the project during a public input session.

Comments can also be mailed in to the ALDOT office before March 23. Comments should be mailed to Third Division Engineer Brian Davis at P.O. Box 2745, Birmingham, Ala., 35202-2745, Attn.: Mrs. Sandra Bonner.

Taylor said all written and audio comments regarding the project will be recorded and placed into the widening project’s file, and will be taken into consideration while ALDOT is finalizing the project’s design.

“We want to involve the public early in the process and let them start identifying things that we may not be aware of,” Taylor said. “That will allow us to make better decisions as we move forward.”

During the public comment session, Maylene resident Steve Crainich encouraged ALDOT to include bike lanes in the widening project, and said doing so would help spur economic growth while keeping local residents healthy.

Alabaster resident Calvin Rumph said the widening project is an “excellent idea,” but said he did not want the U.S. 31 widening project to “compromise the project to expand I-65” from Alabaster to Pelham.

Vestavia Hills resident Pat Dewees said ALDOT should consider adding public transit to the area, and encouraged residents who commute from Shelby County to Birmingham to move closer to Birmingham.