(Map courtesy of Alabama Department of Transportation)
It has been a little more than a year since upgrades began on McFarland Boulevard in Northport, Ala., and state officials said recently that the project still has many months of construction ahead of it before completion — likely no earlier than summer 2024.
The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is continuing work on the $33.9 million, 2.77-mi. project, expected to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion along U.S. Highway 82 and McFarland Boulevard from Alabama Highway 69 to Rice Mine Road in the town just north of Tuscaloosa.
Once finished, the road project will add a travel lane in each direction, provide better access to businesses, and complete a shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians, the Tuscaloosa News reported.
Ikaros LLC in Tuscaloosa is the general contractor on the Northport road project. Proceeds from Alabama's state gas tax increase are fully funding the construction, according to ALDOT.
Upgrades Should Cut Traffic Concerns
The building effort is the first major Rebuild Alabama Act project in Tuscaloosa County. When done, the upgraded McFarland Boulevard should give Northport and North Tuscaloosa motorists a better driving experience as they travel through the oft-congested area.
"The latest traffic counts showed more than 50,000 trips made per day on the heavily traveled highway, so it is important that we improve it," John D. McWilliams, a spokesperson of ALDOT's West Central Region, told the Tuscaloosa News.
During construction, at least two travel lanes in each direction are kept open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the duration of the project, though workers may reduce that to one lane on weekends.
Last fall, adjustments were made to the construction when the University of Alabama's football team played its home games in nearby Tuscaloosa.
"It will be the same [in 2023] as it was this [past] season," McWilliams explained. "New roadway closures will not be allowed from Friday evening through Sunday morning when the [Crimson Tide] has a home football game."
Construction on the McFarland Boulevard improvements first began in 2021, and, as there are no foreseeable delays, other than weather, the project is on pace to finish in mid-2024, he added.
Although the ongoing roadwork can be inconvenient for some motorists, Northport City Council President Jeff Hogg said he believes the results will be worth the hassle.
"This project by ALDOT is much needed and beneficial to not only Northport businesses, but for our citizens as well," he noted. "Traffic congestion calming measures have been needed for quite some time. I understand this roadwork is causing more congestion at the present time, but that will be temporary. As a driver myself, I keep telling myself that it's a marathon, not a sprint."
Other New Developments in Works
In addition to road improvements, Northport continues to grow in other areas by welcoming new restaurants and facilities.
In the new year, Hogg said he is looking forward to construction getting under way on several new developments in the city of 30,000 people, including a proposed water park, sports complex and adventure park.
"Northport continues to grow in a positive direction," he explained. "I am most excited to see [those new projects] come to life with construction happening in 2023. As we await responses from an upcoming RFP for the adventure Park and sports Complex, I am very excited to know that we are on track for the May 2024 opening of the water park.
"Northport is thriving and I am honored to be a part of the process," Hogg added.
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