City lobbies for lights at Exit 46 on Interstate 22

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/16/17

CARBON HILL — Carbon Hill Mayor Mark Chambers, wanting to attract potential business and customers off U.S. Interstate 22, is lobbying state officials in an effort to get lights on the currently dark Exit 46.

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City lobbies for lights at Exit 46 on Interstate 22

Posted

CARBON HILL — Carbon Hill Mayor Mark Chambers, wanting to attract potential business and customers off U.S. Interstate 22, is lobbying state officials in an effort to get lights on the currently dark Exit 46.

“Any business up there to be successful is going to have to have lights on that interstate,” Chambers said at Thursday night’s Carbon Hill City Council meeting.

He pointed out his desire to light up the first road off the exit, County Road 11, also known as the Carbon Hill-Nauvoo Road. A new truck stop is already planned just off the exit by Maburn and Donnie Naramore, with renovations of a building now underway.

The mayor also predicts a fast-food restaurant would likely go in that area in time, with 50 to 60 acres of land to develop at that area.

Chambers said he met at the interstate last week with state Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, and Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Director Kenneth Boswell, the former mayor of Enterprise. Both were supportive of the city’s desires, he said.

“Nearly every exit that has got anything on it has lights except us,” Chambers said. “Even Twin — they have the Holiday Inn there, and they have 28 lights.”

The mayor wants to get the 28 lights for Exit 46, with four, six or eight of the big lights. Estimates show 28 small lights would cost $150,000. No cost estimates have been obtained for big poles with four or five lights at the top.

“I’m going with Tim Wadsworth to meet with Kenneth Boswell,” he said, noting the had to get paperwork from the developers of a new truck stop at that exit, showing how many employees they would have and plans in place. Chambers said it the store will have 10 employees.

The meeting will probably take place shortly after Christmas, he said.

Chambers said after the meeting once one gets off the exit, the truck stop will be to the right in a former bingo hall. The business is expected to be completed within the next year.

“We’ve talked to ALDOT (the Alabama Department of Transportation), and they are short on funds to put the lights up,” he said during the meeting. “We’re going to set up a meeting with the governor (Kay Ivey), and Tim and I are going to talk to her if we can’t get them some way or another.” 

Wadsworth is taking a hand in setting up the ADECA meeting, and would also help setting up any meeting with Ivey, he said.

Chambers said he felt like “Carbon Hill was skipped over” in the process, noting most cities along the interstate have a nice four-lane road coming off I-22 as it heads into the city.

“We have a Coca-Cola plant (whose trucks) can’t even cross the bridge to get into town,” he said, forcing it to take a long detour. “Our city is blocked off by a 16-ton bridge that stops anything from the interstate coming into our city. That is just killing us. There is more traffic on County Road 11 now than there is on Highway 78.

“The only way we’re going to survive is to move up on that interstate. You can revitalize this downtown district all you want to. It’s not going to create revenue. It’s not going to create the jobs and the growth we’ve got to have. We’re going to have to move up to that interstate or we’re going to cease to exist.”

After the meeting, the mayor said that while regular automobiles are not blocked from the bridge, a fully loaded 18-wheeler truck cannot cross the bridge. Coca-Cola has to get back on the interstate and go to the next exit to get back to the downtown area.

The situation has lasted several years.

“It is on a county road, but County Road 11 is a state aide road which connects Highway 78 and Highway 5,” he said, noting ALDOT officials spent a week on the road. “What they have done to it, I don’t know,” he said, noting he and Wadsworth have also sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt about getting the bridge repaired.

“The point is, we need a new bridge across there,” he said. “What I want is a four-lane road off that interstate just like Winfield got and just like everyone else has gotten,” he said.

Chambers said during the meeting the Naramore family has done much work to the building where the truck stop will be located.

“They’ve bought some land from Joey Vick over to the (Nauvoo Church of God), and they’ve bought the Jackson property on the right hand, almost over to Prospect Road,” he said. “They haven’t given me a time when they would be open, but these guys are definitely going to open a truck stop up there.” 

Chambers said he met with Alabama Power officials the previous Monday, including Walker County manager Britton Lightsey, concerning a proposal to put regular street lights on County Highway 11 to get some light in the area, as he said it would likely take some time to put up the major interstate lights that are under discussion with ADECA.

The council could vote to put 11 street lights up from the Nauvoo Church of God to the Shell station, he said. He said the cost will likely be “somewhere between $10 and $12.50 a light a month to put up street lights, and there are 11 of them that is suitable to put a street light on.” 

Chambers said the street lights downtown have four-foot arms, but since the poles are so far off the road at the proposed location, he wants to go with 12-foot arms, resulting in a little higher cost.

Lighting up County Road 11 will double the traffic at that area, he said.

“Nobody is going to get off there who are from out of state or out of town and pull off into a pitch black road. I don’t do it when I travel and I don’t think anyone else does,” he said. “But the lights we can control now will help us a lot. They will more than pay for themselves with the extra people who get of the interstate.” 

District 1 Councilman McClain Burrough, who indicated he would go with Chambers to the next meeting, suggested Chambers also involve Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, in the talks, as he has appeared to be cooperative and helpful in the past. Wadsworth had talked to him about it, Chambers said, noting all the major leaders appear to be on the city’s side to obtain the lights.

“I really think we will get it without having to go through the governor, but if we have to, that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.

Another meeting with Alabama Power officials is set for Monday, the mayor said after the council meeting.

Also, he said Burt Hankins of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood is having an electrical engineer to draw up lighting plans to submit to ALDOT.

Boswell, for his part, inspected the exit area and took photos, telling Chambers that he was impressed with the location. “He told me, ‘Man, I think you’ve got something big here,’” the mayor said.

Wadsworth talked late Friday of the need to accomodate the truck stop, noting, “There is no gas station on the right (north) side traveling from I-65 in Birmingham to Hamilton.” He added, “Mayor Chambers, the city clerk and the council have been proative in working to improve Carbon Hill.”