Residents respond to State Park Road improvement project

Cutline:  Representative from ALDOT explain the components of the proposed State Park Road improvement project. (Reporter photo/Jessa Pease)

Representative from ALDOT explain the components of the proposed State Park Road improvement project. (Reporter photo/Jessa Pease)

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

PELHAM— As residents perused several maps depicting ALDOT’s proposed State Park Road improvement project at a June 23 public input meeting, the majority of voiced concerns were related to safety.

The proposed project would widen State Park Road from Amphitheater Drive to John Findlay Drive, expanding it from 21 feet to 24 feet, and it would create two 8-foot paved shoulders on each side of the road.

Those shoulders would serve as bike lanes, and would improve safety on the narrow road beneath the tree tunnel.

In addition, a round-a-bout would be constructed to replace the existing four-way stop at the intersection of State Park Road and County Road 35.

“It’s been a long time coming, and there was a lot of apprehension of what the proposed product would be,” said Pelham Mayor Gary Waters. “I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing. It takes issue with all the concerns I’ve had with the danger of that road as it is today.”

Improvements would be made to the bike lanes on John Findlay Drive and Terrace Drive inside the park as well. The roadways are currently 22 feet wide with 2- to 4-foot bike lanes on both sides.

The proposed project would include an overlay of the roadway and a widening to create 6-foot bike lanes and 2-foot graded shoulders on both sides of the road.

Several residents spoke with representatives from ALDOT, addressing questions related to the future of the tree tunnel, safety along the road and the project’s impact on traffic.

Cyclist Jack Barrow, who frequents Oak Mountain State Park, said he’s in favor of the project because there aren’t enough safe places to bike in Birmingham.

“I used to ride my bike on State Park Road, but it’s too dangerous,” Barrow said. “It’s too scary. There are too many cars, it’s a small road, there’s not enough shoulder, there is no way to be safe as a cyclist and the cars can’t get around us. That’s the problem.”

Several cyclists attended the informational meeting, and ALDOT representatives said cyclists were also active the initial input meeting on Dec. 10, 2015. The responses seemed to be positive from the cycling community, they said.

Resident Linda Wurstner said she’s in favor of the project overall. She said she thinks the addition of the round-a-bout is much needed, and her many cyclist friends would benefit from the bike lanes.

Her biggest concern was the loss of the tree tunnel, Wurstner said, because the tunnel has been enjoyed by many residents throughout the years. She proposed shifting the road to leave one side of the tunnel, and creating a bike lane next to the trees.

“I would be more willing to lose one side of the tree tunnel, if they have to do it, instead of them thinking they have to tear both of them down,” Wurstner said. “That way you are making a compromise. You are keeping some people happy.”

Shelby County representative Trey Gauntt said the widening project would cut into the tree tunnel, but he said ALDOT does not know how much would be cleared. He said they do have preliminary clearing limits, but they could change.

“The tree tunnel as you see it today will change,” Gauntt said. “The trees won’t be a foot to a foot-and-a-half away from the road, which is a bad thing anyway.”

After consulting with the public, Gauntt said they can begin additional design work and hope to start the right-of-way acquisition in summer 2016. He said an optimistic start date for construction is spring 2017.