Red Bay business owners concerned about road repairs
RED BAY – A group of business owners gathered at Red Bay City Hall Monday afternoon to address city and county officials about the concerns they have over pending work to be completed on Golden Road.
The roadwork to be completed consists of two projects, which include the replacement of deteriorating culverts at one section of the road near the American Legion building, and a resurfacing project from Alabama 24 to the Mississippi state line.
The projects are being funded by grants obtained through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP), which is the largest road and bridge improvement program in the history of Alabama.
The grants are an 80-20 match, which means ATRIP funds will cover 80 percent of the projects while the city will be responsible for the remaining 20 percent.
Red Bay was awarded $625,248 in ATRIP funds in February which means a local match of $120,897 will be required in order to complete the projects.
The projects are slated to take place in 2014 and as it stands, Franklin County highway engineer David Palmer said it would take 60 days to complete the culvert replacement project.
During that time, the road would have to be shut down with traffic rerouted on an approximate 10-mile detour through Belmont, Miss.
Red Bay business owners, particularly those on Golden Road who would be affected by the project, were invited to Monday’s city council work session because many of them had expressed concerns about how the road work would impact their businesses.
This comes on the heels of repairs that were made to the railroad crossing on Golden Road in January that affected those same businesses for 22 days.
Councilman Brad Bolton said work on the railroad crossing started earlier than anticipated and business owners were taken off guard and not able to prepare for the drawbacks of having customers rerouted to avoid the construction.
“In that situation, Golden Road was down for 22 days and that significantly affected those who are in this room,” Bolton said.
“One business reported their customer flow was down 12 percent from that same time the previous year. One was down 50 percent.
“These aren’t greedy folks. They just depend on their customers to be able to frequent their place of business and if they lose this kind of money, they have to be able to find some way to make it up.”
Hal Keeton, owner of Big Star in Red Bay, echoed Bolton’s comments.
“The retail business is a repeat business and if we lose those customers, it’s hard to recover,” Keeton said.
Bolton said the main concerns most of the Golden Road business owners had voiced were that the previous repairs to the railroad crossing had come at a bad time during the year and without ample time for the businesses to prepare for the shortage in traffic through the area.
He said the repairs had also taken longer than anticipated because poor weather conditions forced workers to shut down construction for several days.
“I just think there should be stiff penalties put in the contract in the construction isn’t completed on time,” Bolton said. “Every day counts for these business owners.”
Palmer said he understood it would inconvenient for Red Bay’s citizens and the businesses on Golden Road to have the road out of commission for 60 days but it was better than the alternative.
“If this structure were to fail on its own, you’re looking at a minimum of a year and a half to get the repairs fixed because it takes a long time to go through the pre-construction planning process before bids are even let and the project can even be started,” Palmer said.
From that perspective, 60 days is better than a year and a half.”
Red Bay Mayor Bobby Forsythe said after looking at the culverts with Palmer, he knew they would have to be replaced eventually.
“They are definitely showing signs of wear,” Forsythe said.
“It would be much better to replace the culverts in a controlled setting than to have to replace them if they fall in. we want to be proactive and not reactive because there is a much longer turnaround in the reactive stage.”
Palmer reiterated the work was necessary and would have to be completed soon regardless of the drawbacks.
“This structure is going to be replaced – that’s not even on the table,” Palmer said.
“It’s just a matter of the county working with the city to get these repairs done at a time when the city was planning to resurface the road anyway. It wouldn’t make sense for the city to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to resurface that road just for us to have to come in two years from now and tear some of it up to replace this culvert.”
Palmer said the culverts were in need of repair due to their current state.
“The lifespan of a metal culvert is 20 to 25 years if you’re lucky, and this culvert has been here over 20,” Palmer said.
“There are over 8,000 vehicles a day on that road and by today’s standards, those corrugated metal pipes [in the culvert] couldn’t have gone under the road because they are susceptible to corrosion.
“The pipes today are okay – they’re not going to give out tomorrow so there’s no imminent danger – but there are signs of extreme corrosion on the invert of the pipes so they will have to be replaced soon.”
Palmer said since the repairs to the culvert, which are the responsibility of the county, are necessary and will have to take place sometime in the near future, receiving grant money to help fund the project was too great of an opportunity to pass up.
“When I found out the city of Red Bay was applying for ATRIP funds to resurface Golden Road, I came to the council to discuss also doing this culvert project because it made sense for us to complete both of these projects at the same time,” Palmer said.
“The chances of us having this opportunity to get money to repair these problems again are slim. This probably won’t ever happen again for all these factors to align for us to receive this kind of money.
“It’s going to be inconvenient for a period of time but we have that period of time as short as we can get it.
Members of the business community said it would help if the construction could be completed during the summer months when business is typically slower and weather is generally better, which means there will be fewer delays.
Palmer suggested starting the construction on July 1, 2014, to ensure the project would be complete by September of that year, but some had concerns that it should start after the July 4th holiday.
Palmer said he would have Mayor Forsythe submit in writing a final date that would be the best time frame for the majority of the Golden Road businesses and that construction wouldn’t begin a day before that date.
“We want to make this as easy on you as possible,” he said to the crowd. “And we will keep you informed. If there is anything that would cause the project to run over 60 days, we’ll come to you before construction starts and tell you what the issue is.”
Forsythe said he wanted to make sure the business community was involved in the process.
“Even though this is taking place next year, we want you to be involved and informed from the beginning,” he said. “We appreciate all of you and the fact that you do businesses in Red Bay.”
Forsythe said any other concerns about the Golden Road project could be directed to him by calling 256-356-4473 or by contacting any other council member.