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City storm drains deteriorating

This past week crews have been surveying the storm drainage system in downtown Russellville to determine what repairs will be needed before repaving projects take place on Jackson Avenue.

Russellville City Fire Marshal Steve Thornton said he and several men from the Russellville Fire Department as well as Franklin County GIS Manager Michael Hughes have begun mapping the extensive storm drainage system and documenting damages to the structure and foundations.

“Several months ago, we began to notice sections of the downtown area where the road appeared to be sinking in,” Thornton said.

“Myself and Jody Hitt began to investigate the issue further and we discovered that the storm drains that are located underneath parts of Jackson Avenue and that run parallel to many of the streets downtown were deteriorating in several places, especially where we were noticing the road sinking in, and that the flooring was completely washed out.”

Thornton said the most noticeable spot was in front of Grissom Cleaners but there were other spots near the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Cotaco Street.

Thornton said as they began to investigate the issue further, they realized repair work would have to be completed inside the drains before scheduled repaving projects could take place downtown.

According to Russellville Mayor David Grissom, the repaving projects were being funded through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP), which is the largest road and bridge improvement program in the history of Alabama.

The funds would allow the main street through downtown Russellville, Jackson Avenue, to be repaved but Thornton said it couldn’t happen without the drainage repairs.

“If this issue had gone unnoticed and the paving had gone on as planned, there is a very real possibility the road could have caved in at those weak spots, which would have wasted every bit of time and money put into the repaving,” he said.

“The only option was to assess the damage and get it fixed first.”

This past week, Thornton said they have partnered with Hughes to measure and map the drainage system so information can be logged into the county’s GIS program.

“We’ve been going through taking specific measurements and noting the exact spots where the walls of the drain might be damaged or the floor might be deteriorating,” Hughes said.

“We’re taking pictures of the damage and we’ll be able to load those into the virtual map in the GIS so we can pull up those images and know how to make plans for the repairs all at once instead of doing it in stages.

“We’re also using survey equipment so we can tell what the elevations, slopes and grades are in each drain.”

Russellville Mayor David Grissom said the current plan would allow the repairs to be more efficient.

“We want to make sure that once we get started on this project that we get it done as quickly as possible,” he said.

“If we can figure out what repairs need to be made up front and do them all at one time, it will save the city money and many hours.

“There are parts of the drains that aren’t even damaged, so knowing what specifically to fix also keeps us from throwing the baby out with the bath water. We can do spot fixes instead of just tearing out the whole drainage system and starting from scratch, so this is a more economical option.”

Thornton said there was no timetable for when the mapping and surveying would be complete because they weren’t sure how large the drainage system was.

“We’re just having to go through it a little at a time and as much as the weather permits,” Thornton said. “This is completely unexplored territory so we’re taking it one step at a time.”

Grissom said since the money to repave Jackson Avenue was coming from ATRIP funds, they hoped to be done as soon as possible.

“We want to get started on the repaving process, but we don’t want to do anything until the right repairs are made so we know the roads will be safe and durable for many years to come.”