Old Highway 431 bridges project moving ahead as planned, for now

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- The Old Highway 431 bridges are the talk of Madison County District Three, as the community hopes to them widened as has long been promised. They are a series of four lane bridges, that have become extremely dangerous and structurally unsound in recent years.

And now there is good news. Madison County District Three Commissioner Craig Hill said the project is moving forward.

"The money is back for the project, that item is not on the Metropolitan Planning Organization agenda for tomorrow night. We want to make sure that our citizens are aware of how that process works, who to contact to make sure it carries out, and that the money stays there," he explained.

Commissioner Hill said they want to keep the community updated, that's why he put together a town hall Tuesday night to talk about the project.

"We just want to make sure that people know what the timeline is, where the project is going. If they want to see exactly where it will end, we'll be able to answer that too," he said.

Hill said the timeline for the project has changed a little bit, because there are some environmental concerns.

"As those environmental concerns are taken care of then we'll be on pace to bid the project. And then from there, construction will start. We hope that's a year to eighteen months," he said.

Sherill Esslinger has lived in the area for 80 years, and in that time no significant updates have been made to the bridges.

"You see today what you saw way back in the early 40's," he said.

He said the bridges need to be widened, and that's a given. But residents in the area are more concerned about the temporary closure of the bridges, especially when it comes to emergency response vehicles.

"If they had to go around and then go back around, then you know that adds delay of time to get medical attention," he said.

Esslinger said just a few weeks ago he fell off his porch and hit his head. If the bridges had been closed, the ambulance response time would increase.

"At least ten minutes maybe more, ten minutes is crucial," he said.

He said he hopes the county has thought about what to do while the bridges are closed for the project.

"If you remove one bridge that affects the rest of them, you see there's no way of getting past," Esslinger explained.

Commissioner Hill said a contingency plan will be in place, because the bridges will have to be demolished and completely rebuilt.

Hill also shares concerns about emergency response vehicles and will work with HEMSI and local fire departments to come up with something about for that as well.

Residents in the area are also concerned about the impact to the Hays Nature Preserve Greenway, and its foot traffic.

"The greenway, that would be shut down. All that money floated down the river," said Esslinger.

He said he doesn't want any more talk, he wants to see some action.

"Show us something that's going on. Don't say now we're going to get to this tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes," he said.

Commissioner Hill encourages the public to reach out to the Metropolitan Planning Community to ensure the money allocated for the project stays in place.