Eufaula at odds with state over plan to widen Hwy 431 - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Eufaula at odds with state over plan to widen historic avenue

EUFAULA, AL (WTVM) -

Alabama's Department of Transportation is planning to change a scenic road against the wishes of the mayor and city council of Eufaula.

In January, the city of Eufaula passed a resolution to protect the integrity of a one mile stretch of North Eufaula Ave. where the normally two lane Highway 431 merges temporarily into one lane through a striking boulevard lined with tall trees and rich architecture.

Orange markers on the side of the road show where the state is planning to cut into the median to widen the road.

"This morning they started doing the utility striping. That tells me they are trying to move forward very rapidly," said Don Kellogg.

People who oppose the plan fear road construction will damage the roots of the majestic oaks and ruin the picturesque view that drivers currently see as they enter town from the north.

"I believe that because it's a historical district that it should remain the same." Kathy Hamrick

"It's been in magazines and movies and everything else.  And we're very proud of it," said Mayor Jack Tibbs.

But not everyone agrees with the city's view.  The state said the changes are inevitable for the future of commerce and industry in the region.  Some residents say the merge point is a source of major traffic problems.

"Honestly, I think it would be a great idea for school hours, when everyone is trying to take their children to and from school.  It will help with the traffic because everything is just congested, so I think it's a good idea," said, Mary Upshaw

Mayor Tibbs said the traffic is not an every day problem and it's one he's willing to live with if it means protecting a tourist attraction.

"We're going to get a game plan together to work with the D.O.T. and try to change their mind.  We don't feel that it's necessary to widen it," said Mayor Tibbs.

Douglas Purcell, a member of both the Eufaula Chamber of Commerce and Historic Preservation Commission, has a list of reasons why he's against the plan:

"It will not eliminate congestion on North Eufaula Avenue and it will not increase traffic flow.  We're going to lose our tree canopy and most of the plants and shrubs in the median.  It will interfere with the cut-throughs that drivers use to turn east or west.  The special character of one of Alabama's signature streets will be ruined."

Purcell said the state has tried to enact this plan twice in the past and was shut down both times. 

Mayor Tibbs said the city hired experts from Auburn University to do a study on the oaks in the median. It was determined that the oaks, like the ones on Toomers Corner, have shallow roots that are easily damaged.  The Alabama D.O.T. was not represented at Monday night's meeting for a response in-person.

Copyright 2014 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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