275 Bypass nearing completion
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA – As difficult as it may be for some to believe, the completion of the 275 Bypass around Talladega is almost finished.

The portion of the bypass between Alabama 77 North and Shocco Springs Road is already open (and controlled by a four way traffic signal), and the rest of the road will be open as soon as striping is complete. Talladega Public Works Director Karen Phillips reported to the council that that could happen the week after Thanksgiving.

Rumble strips have been placed at the major intersections on the new road to help control speed, and according to Talladega Police Chief Alan Watson, there were no accidents reported during the first week the new intersection was open.

Historically, discussions of the completed bypass have centered on the detrimental effects to businesses downtown. City Manager Brian Muenger does not see it this way, however.

“The discussion over the last few years has not been fruitful,” he said. “This has been on the way for a long time. I think they did the original engineering like 15 years ago. But I think the city is well prepared for it. We annexed the whole new portion into the city limits. And we rezoned it to be friendly to business development. Any city that has a bypass will draw businesses to it, and there will not be a mass exodus of businesses from the city center. They will co-exist. And commercial development will come as the bypass begins to function.”

Muenger said he was also pleased to see the traffic signal up at 77, especially since an earlier proposal by the state Department of Transportation would have made it a two-way stop.

“There’s a lot of activity going on there,” he said. “And we are seeing results from our efforts to get a light there. Hopefully that will help alleviate some of the traffic backups from vehicles turning onto 77.”

Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mack Ferguson was even more enthusiastic.

“The opening of the bypass should energize the business community in Talladega,” he said in a written statement. “It will remove most of the heavy truck traffic from the city streets, making auto traffic more enjoyable” in town. “The bypass will (also) provide easier access to TOP Trails, resulting in more visitor traffic to the park. They, in turn, will come into town for supplies, food, restaurants, etc.”

Ferguson also mentioned using a recent traffic count/survey to draw a multiplex movie theater to the bypass. “We can use that data to entice a multiplex theater group to locate centrally here. Neither Sylacauga, Pell City, Lincoln, Childersburg or Ashland have a multiplex. The closest ones are in Oxford and Birmingham. The location of a multiplex would entice restaurants to locate here that would not otherwise.”

He goes on to say that “other cities that have experienced tremendous growth as a result of a bypass are numerous—Not to mention what happened in Atlanta. Some cities did die. The difference is in what the cities did to entice businesses to their area that caused the economy to boom and thus the city to boom. You can’t be shortsighted. We have the fantastic opportunity to entice many retired people to our area…with the advent of TOP Trails and the Creek Indian Museum and along with the low cost of housing, cost of living and low crime rate.”

He then said “The major opportunity facing us in city growth or the lack thereof is our city schools and the perception of our city schools in the community. We must solve this issue if we are going to grow as a city. The bypass is not the issue. We don’t have young couples or professional people moving into our city even though they are employed here because of the perception of the lack of quality education. We must get our families involved with our board of education and our education leaders to solve this issue.”

He concluded by saying “So, as I see it, the bypass is an opportunity for real growth for our area if we take advantage of it. And I think we will.”

The southern half of the bypass was completed in 1987. Work to bring the project full circle was plagued by issues of property acquisition and lack of state funds. Actual construction began in 2006, but stalled. The current construction project was let for bid in 2010.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com

© 2012