Infrastructure changes coming to Florala

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

Florala residents learned Monday that big infrastructure changes are coming – first in the form of a possible four-lane bypass of downtown, and second, the rehabilitation of the municipal airport thanks to $516,000 in FAA fun-ding.

An estimated 180 people attended a public hearing to discuss proposed routes for four-laning U.S. Hwy. 331 from Opp to the state line.

Rebecca White with the Alabama Department of Transportation said public input will be considered before a final route is decided.

“Everyone was invited to submit comments on a comment sheet,” she said. “Overall, the mood seemed very positive for the project even though it is in an early preliminary stage. The only federal funding authorized for the project thus far is for the corridor study, which is part of what people took away from viewing the maps at the meeting.”

White said the map showed a new four-lane roadway from where U.S. Hwy. 331 joins at the state line straight up and to the west where the existing U.S. Hwy. 331 outside (north) of Florala, which would be would be new construction that would bypass Florala.

“Then, connecting there, there are two proposed routes that continue along the existing highway, one on the west side and one on the eastside of the existing roadway north to Opp,” she said.

Both Florala Mayor Robert Williamson and Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar were on hand for the meeting. Edgar said he believes the project could attract more businesses to the area.

“We’re kind of located in the center of the state away from everything,” said Mayor H.D. Edgar. “We need infrastructure to get the materials we make in our factories out to other areas.”

Williamson said the city would not be in favor of any route that bypassed the downtown retail area.

ALDOT officials said they will listen to concerns from residents, and pointed out it will many years down the road before construction begins.

“Until something is done up there in Washington and until we have solid funding to build this project and others around the state, we really can’t go much further,” White said.

Construction would begin at 2017 or 2018 at the earliest.

ALDOT will accept public comment on the project until April 20. Forms are available for download at

Williamson also announced the Florala Municipal Airport was awarded $515,914 to conduct a boundary survey; install a wind cone, rotating beacon, and segmented circle, runway lighting, as well as to rehabilitate the airport’s apron and runway.

“Basically, this money will be used to bring the airport up to stands for maintenance issues that need to be taken care of,” said Airport Board attorney Wesley Laird. “The survey is needed to get a good layout for development purposes. The lighting, the cone, the beacon and such is needed for air traffic control. All in all, it’s what we’ve needed to get the airport back on track.”

Laird said the grant match will range between 5 and 10 percent.

-Stephanie Nelson