SPANISH FORT – Work to widen U.S. 31 in Spanish Fort should be completed by the end of 2021, Matt Ericksen, division engineer of the Alabama Department of Transportation, said.
Ericksen said Wednesday, Oct. 27 that the contractor is completing the final part of the work and should be finished by the end of December.
The project was announced in 2018 and work began in 2019. Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan said the completion date has been moved back several times in the last year.
“We were April, then we were October, now we’re talking December,” McMillan said to Ericksen during a meeting of the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization. “Is the problem the contractor? Are there underlying factors? You keep moving it back.”
Ericksen said the weather delayed some of the work and the contractor has been charged for the delays.
“We’ve had a rainy season, but contractually all we can with at ALDOT is charge him time that’s been allocated to the project and if he runs out of his time, we will access liquidated payments,” Ericksen said.
At a meeting of the Spanish Fort City Council on Oct. 18, McMillan said to council members he was also told that utility lines may have also been a factor in the completion. He said residents are complaining about the delays.
First of all, we’ve all heard complaints about how long the project has taken,” McMillan said. “The project actually started March of ’18. It was postponed for a solid year to March of 19 because of the relocation of utilities up and down our right of way, which proved to be a lot more than they anticipated. They were buried there for a long time, and nobody knew they were there, before we were a city. The contract for the project was 445 working days. As of last progress report, the contractor’s now incurring penalty charges as of then it was 30 days.
The mayor said city officials plan to add streetlights and sidewalks along the highway, but that project cannot start until the widening is completed.
“I sure wanted to have the lights up by Christmas, but that isn’t happening. Once we get the lights, and really determine that we can start next year, we can budget it,” McMillan said.
Council members said residents have also complained about dark unlit areas of the highway. McMillan said the new lights will improve visibility.
“They’re LED lights,” he said. “I think it’s going to be so bright going up and down that road, you’re not going to have any problems seeing.”
State highway officials are also working on plans for another project on U.S. 31 in Spanish Fort, Ericksen said.
He said that project will realign the intersection of U.S. 31 and Old Highway 31.
“That project is under plan development the right of way has been authorized so the county is proceeding on the right of way acquisition, and we hope to get that one let to contract next year,” Ericksen said.
Under the proposal, Pinyon Drive would be extended north to U.S. 31 to create a 90-degree intersection, according to earlier reports. The move would replace the current intersection to the west.
Old Highway 31 now intersects with U.S. 31 at a 155-degree angle. Vehicles on U.S. 31 turning right on to Old Highway 31 must slow down to make the sharp angle and have been struck from behind by highway traffic. Drivers turning left from Old Highway 31 cannot see oncoming traffic due to the sharp angle of the intersection, according to an ALDOT report.