Veterans Memorial Parkway delayed again
by Paige Rentz
Jun 06, 2013 | 4032 views |  0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Road construction still continues near the intersection of Alabama 21 and U.S. 431 in Anniston.  Photo by Courtney Davies
Road construction still continues near the intersection of Alabama 21 and U.S. 431 in Anniston. Photo by Courtney Davies
The Alabama Department of Transportation must complete construction documents for the final phase of the project — paving the new road’s northernmost stretch — before the work can be let out for bid. Tony Harris, ALDOT spokesman, said Thursday that bidding would likely happen late this year. Once work on the final phase begins, it could take up to two years to complete.

The project’s timeline has continued to expand, with most recent estimates predicting the final phase to be offered to contractors by early summer and complete by late 2014 or early 2015.

But if work doesn’t begin until the end of the year, the 18-24 month job could slide into the latter half of 2015.

The current phase of the project, grading and drainage work on the northernmost stretch, was expected to be complete last month.

“The majority of work is done, but they do have some outstanding items to finish up,” ALDOT district manager Shannon Jones said.

Most of the roadway work for this “grade-and-drain” phase of the Eastern Bypass, ALDOT’s name for the project, is complete, Jones said, with mostly cosmetic “punch list” items such as small fence work and regrassing certain areas remaining.

Harris said delays in the final design result from changes to the plans for such items as additional erosion control and changes to the tie-in to U.S. 431 at Alabama 21.

“It’s really not uncommon, especially when you’re tying in new construction roadway with major intersections and that sort of thing,” he said.

Once the construction documents are complete, ALDOT can release the project for contractors to bid on. The work to complete the 2.9 miles of roadway will include stabilizing the road bed, laying a crushed aggregate road base, pouring asphalt, and adding all finishing touches, including signage, Jones said.

“You’re going to have a finished product when this contractor is done,” he said.

ALDOT spent $112 million to complete the parkway to its current northern end at Iron Mountain Road, and the current “grade-and-drain” phase of the project is expected to overrun its $29.3 million price tag. Harris said cost estimates for the final phase of the project are not yet available.

Among the delays for the project described in reports 13 years ago as “long-awaited” have been cost increases, cleanup of ordnance at the former Fort McClellan and a defaulted contractor. When the DOT released the bid schedule for the parkway more than 12 years ago, the first of four segments of the project, from Interstate 20 to Greenbrier Dear Road, was scheduled for bidding in March 2001, with the current segment from Iron Mountain Road to U.S. 431 in September 2002, with each segment expected to take between 12 and 36 months to complete.

Local officials have big plans for the parkway, including hopes to lure developers to the site of the Anniston Middle School, expected to draw more traffic once the roadway is connected to U.S. 431 near Alabama 21.

Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart declined to comment Thursday on most recent delay in the project timeline.

ALDOT’s timelines can be fluid for a number of reasons, including funding on hand at any given month, Harris said. Harris also said that there is often room for natural delay with big grading projects. “It’s not as cut and dry as it might seem,” he said.

Harris said he’s often seen gaps between the completion of a grade-and-drain phase of road construction and beginning of the base-and-pave phase.

“In some cases, it’s been measured in years rather than months,” he said.

But he said he doesn’t anticipate any funding issues or other problems with beginning the bidding process.

“When we’re ready to go,” he said, “we’ll go.”

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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