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Crews Make Difficult Progress on U.S. 82

Fri December 12, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Tommy Stevenson

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) The widening of U.S. Highway 82 between Northport and the Pickens County line is coming along slowly, with the Alabama Department of Transportation planning to complete the project by summer 2010.

The project, which will widen the highway to four lanes, is taking years to complete, partly because the 3-mi. (4.8 km) segment crosses the difficult terrain of the Sipsey Swamp west of Coker.

ALDOT recently cleared one hurdle, opening two new lanes in November. Traffic has been diverted to those lanes from the original two lanes, which are now closed.

The next phase will be to rehabilitate the original lanes, ALDOT Fifth Division Engineer L. Dee Rowe said in an e-mail. Removal of the old bridges over the river and adjacent swamp land is under way, Rowe said.

“Bridge removal and reconstruction and resurfacing is expected to take until about mid-2010, at which time the traffic will be split into two eastbound and two westbound lanes,’’ she said.

The project began in January 2003. The first phase included the construction of the six bridges and their approaches at a cost of about $5 million. The bridge work was completed in October 2005 and the new lanes opened in November.

Rowe said the newly begun phase will cost more than $14 million because of the difficulty of working in swamp land.

ALDOT signs at each end of the new phase — Buhl Cut-Off Road to the east and Boyd Road to the west — say $11.2 million of that will come from federal highway funds, with another $2.8 million from state funds.

The project area is between mile posts 33 and 36. When finished, U.S. 82 will be at least four lanes across Tuscaloosa County. At the Pickens County line, however, it narrows to two lanes.

Eventually, the major east-west thoroughfare, which was begun more than a decade ago, will be widened to four lanes all the way to the Mississippi line, said Tony Harris, governmental relations manager of ALDOT.

“The existing two-lane section contained seven bridges with an average of almost 17,000 vehicles a day,’’ he said, adding that one of the bridges, an old railroad bridge, was not replaced.

Parts of U.S. 82 in Pickens County are already four lanes, but state Rep. Alan Harper, D-Aliceville, said ALDOT does not have any work scheduled to widen other sections of the highway in the county.

“We have assurances that we will get funding soon,’’ he said. “We really want portions between Gordo and Reform and from Reform to the [Mississippi] line widened. This is the kind of infrastructure that helps brings jobs and creates quick, safe transportation to and from work.’’

U.S. 82 is part of the national highway system that predates the existing interstate highway system. Like U.S. 11, which runs through Tuscaloosa County from the northeast to the southeast, U.S. 82 crosses the county from the west to the south.

According to a history of federal highways by Robert V. Droz, U.S. 82 was begun in 1932 and is 1,609 mi. (2,589.4 km) long, extending from the White Sands of New Mexico to Georgia’s Atlantic coast.

The highway’s eastern terminus is in Brunswick, Ga., intersecting with Interstate 95. Its western terminus is in Alamogordo, N.M., at an intersection with U.S. Route 54 and U.S. Route 70, according to Droz.

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