Proposed bridge could move north
by Emily Adams
TALLADEGA COUNTY – A small shift could mean significant changes for the proposed bridge connecting Talladega and Shelby counties across the Coosa River.

District 5 County Commissioner Greg Atkinson said he recently met with Shelby County commissioners, who suggested moving the bridge about 2.5 miles north from the current location.

“Their thoughts were that it would work better and wouldn’t require as many road improvements if we moved it up from where we originally intended it,” Atkinson said. “Of course, that creates more costs on our side and more roads to improve and right-of-ways to acquire, but if that would make it easier for Shelby County to support, then we have to consider it.”

The intended location for the bridge runs from Talladega County Road 26 in Fayetteville to Shelby County Road 28 in Columbiana. While Talladega has supported the project for decades, Shelby County has remained uncertain about several feasibility issues pertaining to this location, which is at the site of the former McGowan-Perkins Ferry. According to previous statements from Shelby County Commission Chairman Lindsey Allison, County Road 28 is simply not compatible for the kind of heavy traffic and trucks the bridge would create.

“We’ve always said we didn’t mind if you built the bridge, but we do not have a funding source in order for (County Road 28) to be made safe,” Allison said last month.

Atkinson, who was unable to access the exact road the new location would cross, said he and others with the county are working to pinpoint costs, how much drive time would be saved and other factors involved in the relocation.

“Once we get the maps and other information together, I want to put it out there and let everybody see it and give us feedback,” Atkinson said. “Up until now, our efforts have been focused on the old location. If there is not support from the Shelby County side for us to move it, we really can’t do it. There has got to be an agreement on both sides.”

One potential problem with moving the bridge is that Talladega County’s earmarked funds for the project specify the previous location. The special-use tax “bridge account” was passed by state legislature in 2000 and now holds $4.8 million.

“It would require an act of legislature, because the funds specifically state that location, but anything is possible as long as we get everybody on the same page,” Atkinson said.

He said they will make information collected on the bridge’s new location publicly available once it is prepared and hope to hold public meetings for community feedback.

“We want to get enough facts together for people to make an informed decision and tell us if this is a wise use of taxpayer money, which I believe it is,” Atkinson said.

The commission is in favor of the bridge because it would provide quicker access to a number of major roadways and also allow more opportunities for business and industry growth.

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© 2013