The last six months have not been easy, as orange barrels dot our landscape with so many roads under construction. I hear you and I get it with the delays and detours – it is frustrating, especially when it appears that no one is working. You deserve a fact-based and comprehensive understanding of what is happening and why. Over the next few issues of the Mayor’s Minute, I will endeavor to answer some frequently asked questions.
Why is Lurleen Wallace Boulevard taking so long?
LWB is one of Alabama’s busiest highways, carrying nearly 140,000 vehicles daily (includes both North and South). For years, this major highway was sinking due to bad soils dating back to its original construction. Making matters worse, the aging and outdated infrastructure (water, sewer, storm water) was beginning to erode. The creation of sinkholes is dangerous, costly, and time consuming and required action sooner rather than later. In other words, we had passed the point of waiting because something bad was going to happen.
ALDOT is managing the LWB project, and the City is funding the relocation/upgrades of the water and sewer utilities. It is important to note that the utility relocation is complicated because of the depth of the lines and the simultaneous task of keeping the old lines working. Understanding this, the contractor has had to approach this task in a section by section methodology which limits the amount of manpower.
The good news is that the “major” utility work is nearly complete, and larger sections can be addressed at one time. In addition to the utilities, the City is funding the “street-scape” amenities which will connect into the current Riverwalk near the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. These improvements will make LWB more pedestrian friendly and will encourage downtown’s growth into West Tuscaloosa. According to ALDOT, the project is scheduled to be complete by February 2020.
Why does it feel these projects are happening all at one-time?
Projects that could have been delayed or altered have already been pushed to a later date. Delaying existing projects is not as easy as it sounds. The two main issues pushing our multiple road projects forward simultaneously are infrastructure needs (i.e. danger to health, safety, or welfare) and grant timeliness requirements.
From Tornado Recovery to Transforming Tuscaloosa, the City has done an outstanding job of securing appropriations. That being said, these appropriations often require the City to begin and complete the work within a certain timeframe, causing multiple projects to take place concurrently. Although these grants do not always allow for flexible timelines, they are incredibly important. They afford our community the ability to multiply our funds that we are able to put toward the revitalization of our infrastructure and overall road work projects.