$6.5 million project to help ease Oxford traffic near shopping centers, sports complex
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Sep 25, 2013 | 4682 views |  0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Traffic flows past where Oxford's planned sports complex is to be built near Leon Smith Parkway. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Traffic flows past where Oxford's planned sports complex is to be built near Leon Smith Parkway. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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A $5 million windfall of state money left Calhoun County Commissioners questioning in July what road projects the cash could fund, and Oxford had just the answer.

City officials predict traffic along Leon Smith Parkway will only worsen once a proposed sports complex opens south of and across the street from the Oxford Exchange. No start date has been set for the 350-acre complex, but plans have already begun on an estimated $6.5 million roadway project to prepare for extra motorists.

County engineer Brian Rosenbalm explained that the $5 million — awarded by the Alabama Department of Transportation as part of the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, or ATRIP — will be used by Oxford to ease traffic along the busy parkway.

The lump sum of $5 million came to the County Commission without clear instructions from the state Department of Transportation as to which proposed road projects the money could be used for, Rosenbalm said at the time. The sum came in addition to other ATRIP funds already earmarked for certain projects.

Keith Strickland, with the Birmingham engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, presented the council with preliminary plans at a Tuesday work session.

A portion of the project includes realigning Boiling Springs Road to intersect with what will be the entrance to the sports complex, located across the parkway. A traffic signal is planned at that intersection as well, Strickland said.

Plans also show the addition of turning lanes into the sports complex, and the widening of a bridge over Choccolocco Creek a few hundred feet north of the complex. The additional width will allow drivers to ease into the new turning lanes, Strickland explained.

Another bridge, located south of the exchange, also will be widened, according to the plans.

“That’s going to be an expensive part of the project,” Strickland said, estimating those portions of the project will cost more than $3 million.

Remaining work in those plans includes widening and lengthening turning lanes into the southern entrance of the Oxford Exchange at Crystal Waterway Drive, and into the Publix supermarket at the Oxford Commons shopping center.

ATRIP money often requires cities to provide matching funds and Oxford’s project is no different. Council President Steven Waits predicts the city will spend about $1.5 million on the project, but explained that could change once prices are finalized after the bidding process.

Strickland said plans call for the roadwork to be completed before the sports complex.

“We’re going to do our best to get this bid next year and get things under construction in time for the opening of the ball fields,” Strickland said.

City project manager Fred Denney predicts the roadwork will be up for bid in June, but city officials aren’t waiting for summer to ease traffic in the popular shopping area. Workers with Skipper Consulting Inc. will replace broken traffic detection cameras on the eastbound ramp of Interstate 20 at the parkway next week. Those cameras time traffic signals to keep cars moving smoothly. They’ll also replace a malfunctioning controller that coordinates the timing of each traffic signal in the shopping area.

Additionally, new traffic counts soon will be completed at intersections along the parkway, said Darrell Skipper of Skipper Consulting.

“We’re going to be looking at the laneage from the interstate all the way south to make sure everything flows correctly,” Skipper said.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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