Proposed toll bridge may be on collision course with Limestone project

Decatur Daily (AL), 2014-08-15


Aug. 15 --A change to the route of the proposed toll bridge crossing the Tennessee River from Decatur means the bridge won't pass through a wildlife management area but may cross paths with Limestone County's planned $11 million water pipeline.

Limestone Water and Sewer Authority General Manager Byron Cook said a new route planned by the Alabama Department of Transportation will take the bridge through the same area between Hospitality Park and the railroad that the pipeline will run, creating potential for conflict between the two projects.

"We're hoping to go for bids in December or January," Cook said. "So we're hoping this won't delay our project."

ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris said transportation officials are taking the pipeline plans into account as they plan the $500 million pay-for-access bridge.

"We are aware of that, and we'll coordinate with them as we move forward with our planning process to avoid any conflicts," Harris said.

The 16,100-foot pipeline is expected to quadruple the flow of water from Decatur Utilities into southern Limestone County .

It will start at the old Delphi plant and run under the riverbed to Decatur .

The Limestone water authority has completed engineering and environmental studies and has required permits for the pipeline. Cook said any changes now would cost money and delay the project.

"If they require us to make changes, I would hope we'd be reimbursed for what we've already done," he said.

Harris said ALDOT is "looking at making adjustments" to its plan that will reduce impact on the Swan Creek Wildlife Management Area north of the river.

"It's a shorter, more direct route that results in some cost savings," Harris said.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials had voiced concern about plans to run the bridge through the wildlife area. Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries District 1 Wildlife Biologist Jud Easterwood said it would negatively affect wintering waterfowl and subsequently duck hunters.

Easterwood said Thursday he was glad to hear that ALDOT reconsidered.

Harris said no rendering of a new bridge plan was available. The south end of the bridge will still connect to Wilson Street Northwest east of Ingalls Harbor and the north end will still connect to Alabama 20 near U.S. 31 , but the bridge will cross the CSX railroad tracks at one point, rather than crossing both branches of the railroad Y, Harris said.

The plans remain subject to further change, he said. ALDOT is seeking a private company to design, build, operate and maintain the bridge.

"We're still early in the process," Harris said. "On the front side, it will be a very deliberative process. We're looking at a lot of different things, including overall feasibility."

The suggested toll to cross the river is $2 for passenger cars.

The current Hudson Memorial Bridge would remain a free option to cross the river, but Alabama 20 may be expanded into a toll road, too. Drivers who used the Hudson Bridge would still have to pay a lesser toll to get onto 20.

To get to Interstate 65 or Huntsville from Decatur without paying a toll, drivers would need to use a two-lane service road.

Seth Burkett can be reached at 256-340-2446 or sburkett@decaturdaily.com . Follow on Twitter @DD_SethBurkett. Bayne Hughes can be reached at 256-340-2432 or hughes@decaturdaily.com . Follow on Twitter @DD_BayneHughes.

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