Motorists who regularly must travel on Alabama Route 68 between Sand Rock and Leesburg will benefit from a construction/upgrade now in progress.
Summer work on the road project began in June. The highway site between the two communities is situated on a north-south line in Cherokee County in northeastern Alabama, just west of the Georgia state line.
The construction project will replace the narrow, curved bridge that was built in 1941 over the then Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia Railroad bed.
Nearby residents, frequent travelers on the highway, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and law enforcement personnel urge drivers to use extreme caution when driving along the eight-tenths of a mile construction site. The speed limit in the area is 35 mph, and speeding fines are doubled when workers are present.
Visibility is limited as drivers travel up and down a mountain ridge along the route. During working hours, there are workers' vehicles and heavy construction machinery on both sides of the highway.
Actual work began in March, with the first stage being the relocation of gas and water lines that had been in place near the highway right-of-way for many years. Trees also had to be cut for several yards on each side of the roadway.
Seth Burkett, public information specialist of ALDOT's North Region, said the project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
"The contract actually lists 175 workdays," he added.
Burkett and Cody Adams, in ALDOT's district office in Etowah County, said the bridge currently over the old railroad bed will be replaced with a giant culvert. A detour road is also under construction. After that temporary road is completed, the old bridge will be demolished, and the culvert put into place.
The current roadbed will be raised 12 ft., greatly increasing visibility of oncoming traffic by drivers traveling both up and down the mountain.
The $3.03 million project was contracted by the ALDOT to IKAROS LLC, a bridge and highway contractor from Tuscaloosa.
Burkett said the Alabama Route 68 project is not being funded through the state's new gas tax, but with revenue from the pre-existing gas tax. Twenty percent of the monies came from the state, with the federal government providing the remaining 80 percent.