State Auditor requests ALDOT reconsider Hwy. 331 plan

Published 5:50 pm Monday, July 19, 2021

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State Auditor Jim Zeigler is requesting that the Alabama Department of Transportation reconsider plans for a project that will divert traffic away from Hwy. 331 for up to two years.

ALDOT announced last week that a section of Hwy. 331, north of Opp, will be blocked to replace a culvert, sewer pipe and for a bridge replacement. While the route is closed, traffic will be routed to U.S. 84 and Hwy. 141.

Ziegler said the blockade will effect one of the major beach routes and that ALDOT should reconsider plans to ensure Hwy. 331 remains open. He said ALDOT replaced a similar bridge in Covington County — on Hwy. 5, between Andalusia and Florala — that was done without blocking the highway.

“If 331 simply must be blocked, do it at times other than during heavy summer beach traffic,” he said. “The 2020 epidemic devastated the travel and vacation economy. Some of the same businesses in Opp and Covington County that were hurt last year will again be hurt by [ALDOT’s] decision to close 331 during the best economic travel and vacation recovery period.”

Zeigler also said that ALDOT did not give adequate notice that they were going to block the highway.

“ALDOT sent an e-mail one day and blocked the federal highway the next day. I have the e-mail to prove it,” Zeigler said.  “Businesses, public officials and public safety personnel were not informed.  This is no way to manage a road project.”

In a letter to ALDOT Director John Cooper, Zeigler stated: “I am asking you to halt the blockage and project and take any of three actions: 1.) Manage the project so that the work can be done without blocking 331. 2.) If 331 simply must be blocked, give more notice to the public, businesses, commercial vehicles and emergency responders. 3.) If 331 simply must be blocked, do it times other than during heavy summer beach traffic.” 

The letter goes on to state that “Opp is going to be seriously affected as a result of ALDOT’s actions. You did this with almost no public notice. I have possession of your agency’s highly inadequate e-mail notice that proves this.

“Please halt the blockades now, and then let me know which of the three options above can be done.  Thank you.”