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Fri August 19, 2011 - Southeast Edition
By Cindy Riley
Despite rising temperatures, construction crews are continuing their work to upgrade a major corridor between I-59 and I-20 in northeast Alabama. When completed, the stretch of road will make traveling much easier for race car enthusiasts, while also securing the state’s reputation as a leader in automotive production.
“SR-77 serves as a vital spoke in the wheel that moves the economic engine in this area of the state by providing access to manufacturing facilities and their suppliers,” explained Johnny Harris, first division engineer, Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). “One of the more notable is the Honda automobile plant near Lincoln which has suppliers and employees located throughout all of northeast Alabama.
“In addition, SR-77 provides direct access to the Talladega Motor Speedway, which hosts some of NASCAR’s most prestigious races attracting thousands of race car fans each year,” Harris pointed out.
Improvements will be made to SR-77 by converting it from a two-lane roadway to a multilane (four and/or five- lane) roadway. It has been a phased construction program over the past several years. The current project is the latest phase ready for available construction funds. There will be more projects forthcoming in future years to complete the conversion of the existing two-lanes to a multilane roadway facility as funding constraints allow.
State Route 77, also known as SR-77, is a north–south highway in eastern Alabama that runs from U.S. Highway 431 near Lafayette and ends at U.S. Highway 431 just north of Attalla. North of Talladega, it is known to many as the route that passes the entrance to Talladega Superspeedway, home of the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series races that are held annually.
The original route of SR-77 was established in 1940, running from Lafayette to Ashland. By the early 1960s, the route was extended to its current boundary in northwestern Etowah County. Until 1985, the segment between Talladega and Lincoln was co-signed as Alternate U.S. Highway 231.
The traffic-control plan for the ongoing construction does not re-route or detour normal traffic around the project, but provides for maintaining an 11-ft. (3 m) lane width in each direction, which dictates that wide loads over 11 ft. be detoured, and normal traffic may experience slow flow through the project at various times. Motorists will need to be alert to the project conditions and adjust their travel schedule to allow for some potential delays. Oversized loads will have their route adjusted through their normal permitting process with the Department.
Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch pointed out that, “Thousands of race fans flock to Talladega Superspeedway twice a year for our NASCAR weekends. Ease of ingress and egress are major factors in our customer satisfaction and of high concern for us. The improvements to SR-77 will ultimately prove to be a benefit for our fans, and we look forward to successful completion of the project.”
Mack Ferguson, director of the Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce, added, “It’s great for all our race fans to have an interstate and four-plus lanes of secondary roads in most of the access areas. These lanes also make it safer for our fans to get to their campsites and other entertainment venues in the area.
“Our retailers also will appreciate the road improvements, as the trips from the camping sites to their establishments make it more enjoyable for their race fan customers. The fact that we are getting better access in our area now qualifies us to be considered by larger businesses as a regional center that meets their requirements for location.”
According to ALDOT officials, the SR-77 project contract has a 320 working day time provision in it, which amounts to more than two calendar years for completion. The original estimated date of completion was December 2013. McCartney Construction Company of Gadsden, Ala., which specializes in bridge, tunnel and elevated highway construction, serves as general contractor for the project.
Harris concluded, “Upon completion of this work, motorists will experience a more efficient driving environment through the area by the addition of increased lane capacity to the roadway which should translate into less delay and more safety in the movement of motorists, goods and services through the area.” CEG
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