By Erica Thomas, editor
ARGO — The city of Argo responded to complaints about congested roadways near Interstate 59. The city ordered a traffic study on the I-59 ramp to Argo Parkway, U.S. Hwy 11 and Argo-Margaret Road. The city has the results and is now waiting for funding.
Argo Mayor Betty Bradley confirmed about 10,000 drivers use Highway 11 around Argo-Margaret Road every day. She said that number is increasing with growth in Argo and surrounding cities. She is concerned about the safety of those drivers.
“If a train is blocking, sometimes it’s a 15-20 minute wait just sitting on the road and we have cars on Highway 11 that try to pass because they’re going straight, so they’re going into the oncoming traffic,” she said.
She said there have also been issues getting first responders to emergency calls. That’s why Bradley believes something needs to be done soon.
The study, by Skipper Consulting, resulted in a proposed four-phase construction project. It would add a deceleration lane on I-59 NB at the Argo Parkway exit. It would also add a right turn lane and an acceleration lane on the I-59 exit ramp at the intersection of Argo Parkway. Other improvements would include construction on the intersections of Highway 11 at Argo Parkway and Highway 11 at Argo-Margaret Road.
When the year-long study was completed in June 2018, Skipper Consulting said based on previous meetings, they concluded that the Alabama Department of Transportation was planning on performing the work on the interstate using state funding. Skipper said it is assumed that work would be complete in the fiscal year of 2019. That information has not been verified by ALDOT.
As for the work needed off the interstate, the study suggested project investment from federal, state, county and city governments in phases over a period of seven years. The study estimated 80 percent of the project would be federally funded and 20 percent would come from the state, county and city.
In order to make improvements to Highway 11, Norfolk Southern Railway would have to allow St. Clair County to gain access to the right-of-way. That, along with funding issues, has been the roadblock for improving traffic in the area, according to St. Clair County Commissioner Ricky Parker.
“The problem is just like anywhere else…is dealing with the railroad,” Parker said. “People only have one way in and one way out and when the train’s sitting on the tracks for an hour or an hour and a half, those people can’t get in or out.”
Norfolk Southern Railways has not responded to media inquiries by The Trussville Tribune.
Bradley said if St. Clair County would agree to help pay for the improvements, Argo would be in a position to apply for grant money to get the project off the ground. But she said the county did not budget for the $3,700 needed in 2019. Bradley said she went before the county commission with several council members and asked for help. She is hopeful the commission will add the funds to its next budget. Parker said commissioners are discussing what they can do with the county engineer.
The total cost for the city and county over a seven-year period would be $280,150 each. State and federal funding would cover the remainder of the $6,546,600 project.
The city of Argo has already spent over $20,000 for remote traffic lights, traffic light timers and a traffic-monitoring camera to help with congestion. The mayor plans to continue requesting help from St. Clair County and ALDOT. She is asking for patience and understanding from drivers.
Here is a look at the complete study: