More than a decade.
But at last, the end is in sight. The final phase of the long-awaited Veterans Memorial Parkway nears completion, a goal officials expect will generate economic prosperity in the area.
Construction is set to start in January on the parkway’s final 3.7 miles.
Bentley and several state and local officials kicked off the $12.2 million project with a groundbreaking ceremony near U.S. 431 at the northern end of the link. The parkway will connect Interstate 20 to northern Anniston by a route through McClellan. The project is expected to be complete in the summer of 2015.
The 7-mile-long parkway has been under construction for more than 10 years at a total cost of about $150 million. The parkway begins in Oxford at I-20 and travels north through southeastern Anniston to McClellan and finally to U.S. 431.
"This was started a long time ago and it's nice to finally get it finished," Bentley said. "More importantly, it will enhance the transportation infrastructure in this area and keep commerce moving smoothly."
DeJarvis Leonard, division engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said the project contractor, Gadsden-based McCartney Construction, will begin work next month building drainage culverts near the parkway.
"It probably won't be until it warms up in the spring when we'll see any real paving," Leonard said. "There will also be several phases of traffic changes during the project ... some lanes will be closed and there will be some shifting of traffic."
Leonard added that including subcontractors, more than 100 people will work on the project.
Phil Webb, chairman of the McClellan Development Authority, which oversees development of the former fort, said the parkway's completion will create economic opportunities for the area.
"The parkway will provide easy access and reduce travel time to and from the surrounding communities and link to other major roadways and open up growth for McClellan," Webb said. "The parkway indeed will help attract new industries with well-paying jobs to the area."
Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart said the parkway will benefit all of Calhoun County, not just Anniston and McClellan. Stewart said the local governments of Calhoun County are committed to the parkway, McClellan and the idea that both will create jobs for residents throughout the area. He noted that the local governments agreed in October to spend $1.84 million for infrastructure development at McClellan.
"This is bigger than the city of Anniston," Stewart said. "McClellan means so much to this region ... and this parkway is a new gateway that will connect McClellan to new markets."
Don Hopper, executive director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Council, said the parkway project will help his agency's efforts to lure industry to the area.
"There are so many projects we've worked on, and almost every one is looking for a major transportation corridor," Hopper said. "This adds another arrow in our quiver to shoot at industry."
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.