Official's message to Childersburg residents: Pardon our progress
by Mark Ledbetter
CHILDERSBURG – Residents traveling downtown on 1st Street can expect to be inconvenienced for about a month after traffic lights at 8th and 9th avenues were taken down Wednesday.

Traffic accessing Alabama 76 from 8th and 9th will be controlled by stop signs, while Alabama 76 traffic will have free travel until the traffic lights are replaced.

“The intersections are not four-way stops,” city clerk Sandra Donahoo said.

She said the city discussed the possibility of using four-way stop signs to control the traffic, but the Alabama Department of Transportation would not allow it.

“Contractors want locals to use alternate routes to let the traffic flow on Highway 76,” Donahoo said. “They know how to use the side streets.”

He said a major concern was a “fender-bender.”

“I haven’t heard any tires screech or glass shatter,” said Ronnie Forbus at Ronnie’s Barber shop, which is on 8th Avenue. “But I anticipate it could happen. Some have been in the habit for so long and it is hard to break a habit.”

Forbus said none of his patrons have complained.

“City officials pretty well broadcast the changes involved,” he said.

Forbus also said he was looking forward to the improvements and hopes they stimulate the downtown economy.

J & J Drug Company owner and pharmacist LaShane Calvin said some of her older customers complained a little. Calvin said she is thrilled about the improvements, but said she wasn’t sure about the impact on business when they take up the sidewalk. “But we will work around it,” she said.

Julie Butler at That’s Hot! Boutique said her customers see the changes as a good thing. She said it would be helpful, however, if she knew ahead of time when they will replace sidewalks in front of her business so she can schedule a vacation.

Police Chief Shane Burnette said a couple of officers mentioned some complaints, but there have been no accidents or incidents. He said he spoke to an engineer overseeing the project who said the lights should be back in operation in about a month.

Earle A. Rainwater Library director Barbara Rich said some library patrons have complained mildly about the absence of traffic lights and Ada Hamilton, administrative assistant at City Hall, said she received one complaint.

Donahoo said a possible delay could be Charter cable lines.

“They haven’t responded to my calls,” she said.

The downtown streetscape and traffic signal project begins at U.S. 280 along 1st Street and extends past the 8th Avenue intersection. Other improvements will include new sidewalks.

Powe General Contracting submitted the low bid of $482,648 and was given the contract for the Downtown Streetscape and Traffic Signals Project. The project began Oct. 1 by placing barrels to serve as barriers, and contractors began replacing sidewalks on the south side of 1st Street Oct. 2.

Intersections at 8th and 9th will receive new traffic signals at a cost of $125,000 each, which accounts for almost half of the project’s cost. Mayor B.J. Meeks said the state Highway Department agreed to pay for the traffic signals, provided the signals the city selected met ALDOT’s specifications.

The new traffic signals will be mounted on 22-foot, 4-inch fluted decorative poles with clam shell bases. The traffic signals will extend from arms on the poles.

Donahoo said local residents should anticipate more inconveniences when contractors begin pouring new sidewalks. Concrete trucks will block the street allowing for one-way traffic. After completing the south side sidewalks the north side sidewalks will be replaced.

“But as ALDOT says, ‘Pardon our progress,’” Donahoo said.

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com.

© 2012