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32-million dollar project underway on I-85 to improve exits in east Alabama

A Rebuild Alabama sign sits at a construction site along U.S. 82 and U.S. 31 in Prattville.
A Rebuild Alabama sign sits at a construction site along U.S. 82 and U.S. 31 in Prattville.(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 2:16 PM EDT
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OPELIKA, Ala. (WTVM) - Plans are underway in east Alabama to improve exits along busy Interstate 85. According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, they will be using a recently awarded $10.8 million grant towards the agency’s work to modernize the state’s interstate system for today’s traffic volumes.

According to a press release from ALDOT:

ALDOT will start a project to replace six functionally obsolete bridges in Opelika along Interstate 85 at exit 60. The bridges over Long Street, the Norfolk Southern Railroad, and Alabama Highway 51 (Marvyn Parkway) will be replaced with new, modern bridges that have full width shoulders of approximately 8 feet, for added safety and traffic congestion relief. Acceleration lanes from exit 60 will also be extended to allow traffic to more safely merge onto I-85.

Alabama Department of Transportation

ALDOT anticipates the project to be completed by Spring 2024. Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller tells News Leader 9 that citizens of the area and people who travel through the roadwork should remain patient and travel the path with caution.

“Be patient, and then be very cautious in the meantime of getting on and off of the interstate at exit 60,” said Mayor Fuller. “It takes too dog gone long to get a project like this done, but it is what it is. So we’re going to try to be patient. We know that better days are coming to make that intersection safer, especially for all of our visitors.”

Citizens in the area tell News Leader 9 it’s about time for the change to come about. Many people who commented on the project, describe the exits as a “death trap.”

“I’ve had to come to a complete stop a couple of times because you can’t get over to let people pass or get on,” said one Opelika citizen who declined to share her name.

“That would be a God-saving thing,” said Jackie Heard, an Opelika resident. “It would save a lot of lives I believe.”

Another resident who declined to be identified commented, “Sometimes I’ll go up around to the next exit because I can still get to my destination most of the time if I’m in that area by going to the next exit up and getting off and going on to where I need to go that way.”

Mike Augustine told News Leader 9 he travels along I-85 often for work. “It seems like it’s pretty hard to get on and off the interstate right here at this spot specifically,” said Augustine.

The press release from ALDOT continues with the following:

“To maximize safety and reduce the project’s impact on motorists, ALDOT is using an innovative method that will allow two travel lanes in both directions to remain open during construction. By using the existing median as a temporary travel lane, each bridge can be replaced in its current location.

Lane closures will be possible throughout the project and are permitted Sunday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Lane closures will not be permitted during Auburn University’s A-Day Spring football game or during Fall home football game weekends.

Motorists are advised to drive the posted speed limit in an active work zone and to be mindful or equipment and crew members.

ALDOT awarded the $32 million project to McInnis Construction, LLC, out of Summerdale, Ala. The projected is expected to be complete by Spring 2024.

ALDOT’s mission is to provide a safe, efficient, environmentally sound transportation network across Alabama.”

Alabama Department of Transportation

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