Funding problems for bridge frustrate Carbon Hill officials
by Daniel Gaddy
Jul 10, 2012 | 2287 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
City of Carbon Hill officials are seeking funds from the state government to replace Mill Creek Bridge, which connects the city to Interstate 22. Mayor Chris Hart said the bridge poses a safety risk due to its deteriorated condition. - Photo by: Daniel Gaddy.
City of Carbon Hill officials are seeking funds from the state government to replace Mill Creek Bridge, which connects the city to Interstate 22. Mayor Chris Hart said the bridge poses a safety risk due to its deteriorated condition. - Photo by: Daniel Gaddy.
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CARBON HILL — City leaders are hoping to secure state funding to replace a bridge connecting Carbon Hill to Interstate 22 — a bridge they say poses a significant safety risk to the area.

“It’s just sickening we can’t get any help from the state,” Mayor Chris Hart said about Mill Creek Bridge.

He said two Alabama governors — Don Siegelman and Bob Riley — have stood on the bridge and heard about the concerns about the roadway, but “no one seemed to care to do anything about it.”

Hart said the bridge has seen much more wear and tear than comparable roadways because it was used heavily by construction crews building Interstate 22.

Hart said that when construction on Interstate 22 was complete, Mill Creek Bridge’s weight limit was placed at 16 tons, when most bridges have a limit of around 30 tons.

Hart said the struggle to get funding for the bridge has been worsened because the city had no representation during a pre-construction hearing that occurred more than a decade ago.

Hart said he doesn’t know why Carbon Hill failed to have an official attend the meeting. Because there was no representative from Carbon Hill, however, transportation officials were not made aware of any concerns from the community.

Hart said that if motorists were unable to use the bridge, much of Walker County would be cut off from Carbon Hill. Fewer people coming in would mean less tax revenue for the city, further straining the community financially.

 But Hart said his chief concern is the danger to public safety if the bridge is not operational during a disaster. Mill Creek Bridge is less than a mile from Carbon Hill High School.

“To me it’s just a large safety concern that needs to be addressed before someone gets hurt or killed,” Hart said.

Several local officials have met with the Carbon Hill City Council about the Mill Creek Bridge issue.

Rep. Richard Baughn (R-Lynn) said he and Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper) tried to arrange a meeting with Carbon Hill officials and Gov. Robert Bentley, but they could never schedule a time. Baughn said that was due to a legislative session packed with time consuming topics like a new redistricting plan.

Baughn said it’s possible the Alabama Legislature could have the funds for the bridge project next year.

Reed said he was able to meet with the director of Alabama’s Department of Transportation and provide him with a list of needed projects in his district — which included Mill Creek Bridge.

Hart was also scheduled to meet with Walker County Commissioner Dan Wright and an engineer to discuss applying for the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, which will fund nearly $300 million worth of roadway projects, particularly those that address public safety, economic development or community connectivity.

Wright estimated the cost of repairing the bridge at $1.9 million. He said that the grant requires municipalities to provide 20 percent of in-kind contributions, which would be $400,000 for the City of Carbon Hill.

The meeting was scheduled for June 21, but never materialized, Hart said.

The Eagle’s efforts to reach Wright were unsuccessful Monday.