Highway projects speed up thanks to state
by Paige Rentz
A transportation grant will soon have traffic in Jacksonville flowing more smoothly.

As part of the most recent round of awards though the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, the city of Jacksonville will receive $1.52 million to replace traffic lights at 10 intersections along Highway 21.

“It really does speed this up,” Mayor Johnny Smith said. The project was originally slated to be handled by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, but it was not scheduled for funding until 2015, he said.

The city alone would not have been able to complete the $1.9 million project on its own, Smith said. Under the grant, the city’s cost for the project drops to $380,000.

“At least it’s something we can proceed with now rather than wait until 2015 and the money might not even be there,” Smith said. Once the city has completed and reviewed the engineering work, he said, the city can move forward with the project.

The project, said the mayor, will reduce repair and maintenance costs for the aging lights and install new controllers, which will synchronize the timing of the lights to improve traffic flow along the city’s main roadway. Changing to LED lights will also save on energy costs. “It’s a bit of a green move as well,” Smith said.

Stanley Carr, head of the city’s Highway Department, said his employees take care of the problems they can, but they sometimes have to call in outside help for repairs.

“We try to keep $20,000 in the budget for repair and maintenance of our traffic lights, and most years we end up having to add a little to it,” he said.

With “so many circuits and circuit boards and little computers and things like,” Carr added, “they just get to the point where you’re spending more money trying to keep life support on them than they’re worth.”

Changing to LED lights, Carr said, will also give city workers more warning when a light needs to be replaced. The new traffic signals will be made of many small LED bulbs, so when one or two bulbs go out, the rest will continue to function until the light can be changed.

“With an incandescent bulb, if you have a green light that blows or a red light that blows, it’s goes out instantly and you have to immediately try to get it replaced,” he said.

The new round of ATRIP grants — which are funded through government bonds that allow the state to access future federal dollars — will also help complete a number of other local projects, including more than $4 million for Anniston to extend Iron Mountain Road to Highway 21, something Smith hopes will boost development interest in Jacksonville by providing an easier route from 1-20 to his city.

Calhoun County also received $5.85 million to replace seven bridges throughout the county.

Assistant County Engineer Michael Hosch said the bridges are all posted, meaning that they have weight limits that are lower than state legal limits for one or more types of vehicles the state rates.

Hosch said the bridges, which are currently off-limits to school buses or certain types of trucks, will be brought up to weight limits that are now state standard. The project will cost the county $1.46 million.
© 2013