River Falls update planned

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Before members of Andalusia’s current administration took office, they set as their top priority finding a way to improve River Falls Street.

Tuesday night, the Andalusia City Council unanimously agreed to have CDG Engineers begin the design work on that project, expected to cost $3.85 million. The council agreed to proceed after being convinced that the project will be eligible for funding from the national stimulus package that has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently before the Senate.

“The president has set as a goal having this bill passed by President’s Day, which is Feb. 16,” Mayor Earl Johnson explained. “It includes funding for infrastructure improvements like River Falls Street.”

Johnson said city officials have determined in meetings with state highway department officials that the proposed project would be eligible for stimulus funding. However, the bill will only fund projects that can begin within 120 days of the bill’s passage.

The mayor said he was contacted by CDG Engineers, who had done preliminary design work on the River Falls Street project, with an offer to partner with the city and share the risk. The company will defer half of its engineering fees, or $113,585, until the project is funded. If it is not funded, the city won’t be responsible for that share of the costs.

CDG’s Mark Pugh told the council that refurbishing River Falls Street would finish the loop from the northern bypass to the western bypass. The proposed project includes replacing water lines, storm draining, new cubs and gutters, additional parking, sidewalks and green areas.

“Good street projects don’t go out of style,” Pugh said. “Whether the funding is available now or in a few years, this will be a good plan.”

Johnson said, “We’ve talked to some top DOT officials. If we don’t have a plan in their hands, it won’t get funded.”

Councilwoman Hazel Griffin, whose district includes River Falls Street and who made the motion to move forward on the project, said she has been praying about the need to improve the street since taking office.

“I’ve prayed about this since I was installed in office,” she said. “I couldn’t see how we could do this, but you brought us a solution we wouldn’t have had. I proudly make this in the form of a motion.”