Gov. Ivey gives go-ahead for I-65 widening

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has directed Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper to expand a portion of Interstate 65 between Alabaster and Pelham in Shelby County from four lanes to six lanes. The announcement came as part of a meeting with the Shelby County Legislative Delegation.

The announcement came about a year and a half after former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned in April amid allegations he used state resources to further and cover up an affair, directed ALDOT to fast-track the project.

In December 2016, state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said ALDOT was set to bid the widening project in early 2017. However, after Bentley’s resignation, Ward said he was unsure of the status of the project.

“Infrastructure development is economic development. If traffic is congested and our roads are blocked, transportation is slowed and the wheels of economic progress are slowed. As Governor, my quest is to provide Alabama’s families and small businesses with every opportunity for success; this project is just the start of our statewide focus of spurring economic growth through improving our infrastructure,” Ivey wrote in a release. “By expanding I-65 in Shelby County, we are not only meeting a long-overlooked need in our state, we are also signaling that economic development is central to my administration and that Alabama is open for business. I instructed Director Cooper to move forward with this project because it is the right thing to do for the people and businesses of Alabama.”

The plan will add lanes to I-65 from Exit 238 in Alabaster to Exit 242 in Pelham, making the 3.5 mile stretch of four-lane interstate into a six-lane roadway. The project also will increase shoulder space along the northbound and southbound lanes “to easily allow more lanes to be added in the future,” according to Ivey. More than 93,000 vehicles travel the section of roadway each day, with more than 12,000 of those being tractor trailers, Ivey said.

According to Ivey, ALDOT will take bids on the plan before the end of the 2017 calendar year. The project likely will require two years to complete, at an estimated cost of between $50 million and $60 million. The chosen contractor will be notified by February 1, 2018, with construction to begin by the end of February 2018, she said.

“Governor Ivey is to be commended for her leadership on increasing the traffic capacity along a very congested portion of I-65 in north Shelby County. Our community is experiencing tremendous population and economic growth and our roads need to keep up,” Ward wrote in a statement. “I am thankful that Governor Ivey recognizes the importance of infrastructure in economic development, and I look forward to working with her on future projects, both in my district and around the state.”

Cooper said the project also will position the stretch of interstate to handle growing traffic demand in the future.

“Though this project has been on the radar for a while, Governor Ivey made it clear to me that alleviating traffic congestion across the state is a high priority for her,” Cooper wrote in a statement. “I am looking forward to spearheading this project, now that she has given us the green light to move forward, as traffic in this area is expected to grow to over 150,000 vehicles per day during the next 20 years.”