State eyes 4-laning U.S. 331

Published 12:05 am Saturday, July 16, 2011

State transportation officials are planning a corridor study for four-laning U.S. Hwy. 331 from Opp to the Florida state line.

A recently completed state transportation improvement plan shows the study would determine ways to add additional lanes to a 19.08-mile section from U.S. Hwy. 84 southward through Florala.

Tony Harris, Alabama Department of Transportation’s bureau chief of media and community relations, said the project was one of many discussed at a recent ALDOT public input meeting in Troy.

He said when ALDOT determines a need in a specific area, corridor studies are performed.

“In this case, the need is for a wider, better road and safer conditions for traffic,” he said. “(Widening U.S. Hwy. 331) is a logical project. It’s already four-laned above Opp and across the state line in Florida. The idea is to meet the two in the middle.”

Harris said engineers will work to identify a “swath that could be one mile or five miles wide and plot out a number of alternate routes.”

Then, he said, meetings will be held to garner public input on the routes. It is a process that will be repeated until a preferred route is chosen.

Florala Mayor Robert Williamson said for years, speculation has brewed about whether or not the new route would bypass Florala.

“Of course, we hope it’s not bypassed period,” Williamson said. “And we also hope that any (ALDOT) construction plans do not include the bypassing of Florala, because that would be detrimental to our local economy.”

Harris said it’s premature to speculate on what route the highway will take.

“Multiple things will be looked at and weighed, including the potential to disrupt or negatively impact businesses,” he said. “Once (DOT) determines a route, it will be sent to the Federal Highway Authority for final approval, because they’re going to pay 80 percent of the cost since it’s a federal highway.”

Cost of the study is $3,000, with 80 percent covered by federal highway funds and the remaining 20 percent by the state. It is scheduled for the 2011 fiscal year.