Published January 07, 2005 6:01AM
DOT to replace Mentone bridges
Times Staff Writer
MENTONE - State officials assured an
overflow crowd at Mentone Town Hall on Thursday that two hazardous
bridges on Alabama 117 will be replaced.
Sen. Lowell Barron, Transportation Director
Joe McInnes and Division Engineer Johnny Harris met with Mentone
officials and residents in response to a letter-writing campaign about
Both Barron, D-Fyffe, and McInnes said they
have received numerous letters and telephone calls after recent
accidents on the bridges.
One of the bridges is in the town limits,
over the west fork of Little River at Skyline Camp. The other is near
the Georgia line, over the middle fork of Little River at Whatley's
The two bridges were built more than 60
years ago, and the Alabama Department of Transportation has declared
them functionally obsolete. They are less than 20 feet wide, with no
buffer area between the traffic lanes and the guardrails.
McInnes said the bridges were never
designed to carry a high volume of heavy trucks, but that many truckers
use Alabama 117 as a shortcut between Interstates 75 and 59.
Both the narrow bridges are in a curve, and
it is practically impossible for trucks to cross them without crossing
the center line, especially when they are traveling too fast.
One of those in the audience was the father
of a man seriously injured in a collision with a truck on the Skyline
bridge in October.
"My son has not walked since October 28,
and he has two more months before he gets to therapy," the man said as
his voice cracked.
Although McInnes already had outlined the
plans to replace the bridges, the man said that residents should blow up
the bridge to keep large trucks from using it in the meantime.
That was not the only drastic suggestion to
come from the audience. One said that trucks should be forbidden to
travel through Mentone. Another said police officers should be paid a
bounty for giving tickets to speeding truckers.
The replacement bridges will be 40 feet
wide, with two 12-foot lanes and buffers between traffic and the
guardrails. The cost for the two bridges
is estimated at $2 million.
To make the bridges as safe as possible
until they can be replaced, Harris said DOT crews are improving warning
signs and installing caution lights along with speed limit signs on the
The new bridge at Whatley's Curve will
cross the river upstream from the current bridge. The route for the
Skyline bridge has not been determined, Harris said.
The contract for replacement of the
Whatley's bridge is to be awarded in November, with construction
beginning soon after Jan. 1, 2006.
The Skyline contract was to have been
awarded in late 2006, but McInnes said it would be moved up and awarded
no later than one year from now.
"That is a major concession, and we are
happy to do it," he said.
McInnes said Gov. Bob Riley had set three
priorities for state transportation projects: that they first address
safety, that they address real need instead of want, and that, when
possible, they promote industrial development.
"There is a demonstrated need here, and it
is definitely a matter of safety," McInnes said.
Both McInnes and Harris said that while DOT
can work toward making the bridges safer, the problem of speeding trucks
falls to local law enforcement and the Department of Public Safety.
McInnes said Alabama has only about 330
troopers to enforce traffic laws, while Mississippi has 660 and Georgia
more than 900.
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