SR-117 Issues

Comments by Readers

Ft. Payne Times-Journal Article "Mentone Bridge Still up in the Air"

Received:  Tuesday, January 6, 2009, 2:15 PM

On January 6, 2009, Jared Felkins of the Fort Payne Times Journal asked me what issues I had with ALDOT building a new bridge in Mentone?  My written response to Mr. Felkins was as follows:

We donít have any issues with ALDOT building a new bridge if this is the only solution.

First, I would like to state that my family and I are for the safety of Mentone above and beyond anything else. My first call as a member of Desoto Rescue Squad was a bridge accident, and I have been the first one providing medical attention for 3 of the past 4 accidents. My grandfather first spoke with the then Alabama Highway Department about the dangers of the bridge in the 70ís. At that point, he was told traffic would one day be rerouted around Mentone on an Atlanta-to-Memphis highway. Unfortunately, that bypass is still slated for some 20 years in the future. Given my familyís history of living near the bridge, we are acutely aware of the dangers involved and the urgent need for action. Our idea of the ideal solution is one that can both preserve the area while creating a safer bridge and safer town.

According to the national bridge inventory database the Mentone Bridge rates as a possible candidate for an Historic Bridge Rehabilitation. We have spoken with a bridge engineering firm in Atlanta who specializes in widening bridges. They have examined the bridge and estimate it can be widened in less than 3 months to meet current guidelines for less money with little eminent domain. A wider bridge that can be completed in three months is an immediate safety improvement over what we have now. However, ICT cannot put together a formal plan until they have certain technical information from ALDOT concerning the geometrics the wider bridge would need to meet. We requested this information from ALDOT in December of 2007 and are still awaiting these numbers so a final plan can be submitted for their review.

From our understanding, the primary cause of the delay for this project involves a correction to the Archeology study for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS )for this project. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is the preliminary study needed for State agencies to move forward. The EIS requires an impact evaluation on all structures over 50 years old which will be impacted by Federal dollars.

In ALDOTís original Environmental study created in 2005, our families home was listed as being constructed in 1970. However, our home was constructed by my great grandfather in 1918. We learned of this mistaken date in May of 2005 and brought it to the immediate attention of ALDOT and the State Historical Commission. We were told this correction required a reevaluation of the EIS but were not told how long this would reevaluation would take. We were told they had to have all their facts correct before they could move forward.

Last night during Senator Barronís town hall chat we were informed for the first time that the Historical review would delay this project 18-24 months. We never requested such a delay; we only asked that the record be corrected concerning date of construction for our family home. Second, we notified ALDOT and the AHC of this in May of 2005. Therefore, the 18-24 month delay Senator Barron spoke of has already passed. We are unsure why this project is still taking so long but greatly appreciate Senator Barronís offer to help resolve these problems and move this project forward. Whether it is a widening of the existing bridge or a new bridge, we want to see this project underway as soon as possible. Therefore, as to your question, we have no issues except to see Mentone safer.

Slate McDorman
Mentone, Alabama

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