Calera city leaders expedite I-65 bridge improvement

By MOLLIE BROWN / For the Reporter

CALERA — As promised on April 1 when the Calera City Council unanimously approved a 1 percent sales tax increase, city leaders are aggressively working to advance the construction schedule of widening the bridge at I-65 exit 231.

On April 9, Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Mayor Jon Graham, Councilmember David Bradshaw, Fire Chief Sean Kendrick and City Engineer Chris Pappas met with Gov. Robert Bentley and Alabama Department of Transportation Highway Director John Cooper to discuss the project.

Graham said the meeting was productive.

“It is Governor Bentley and Mr. Cooper’s recommendation that the city pursue funding the bridge project through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program. This project will replace the existing two-lane bridge with a seven-lane bridge that will relieve the chronic traffic congestion and provide safe and quick passage for Calera’s first responders as well as the rest of our traveling public,” Graham said.

ATRIP is an ALDOT administered federal aid highway program that funds up to 80 percent of the construction of roadways projects considered deficient or functionally obsolete. The city of Calera would provide the remaining 20 percent with bonds that will be paid back over a 15-year period.

In order to be considered for funding, Graham has instructed Pappas to move forward with the city’s ATRIP application, which is due by May 31, 2013. Application is made through the ALDOT Division County Transportation Engineer and the County Transportation Bureau. The two offices will set up the project for ALDOT to review. The project would then be presented to the governor and his committee for approval.

Pappas said the state has completed a survey for the project, but there is a lot of preliminary work to complete before construction begins.

“There is environmental work and a design to build the bridge and tie it back into Highway 31 in as short of a distance as possible,” he said. “The rest of 31will be widened later, this will cut down on the cost of the bridge project and it will go much quicker. Applications are evaluated pretty quickly, and if we get the grant it will be about a year before actual construction begins.”