Fighting for You: Madison County Commissioners Sign Agreement To Turn On Overpass Lights

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - WHNT NEWS 19 told you street lights along the new Research Park Boulevard overpass were not turned on. We discovered weeks ago the Madison County Commission didn't know drivers were forced to maneuver through the county in the dark. It is possible the street lights on the overpass could be turned on soon.

WHNT NEWS 19 started reporting on the story in December 2012. One of the Madison County Commissioners mentioned the report at the recent commission meeting.

An alert WHNT NEWS 19 viewer brought the darkness along the Research Park Boulevard overpass to the station's attention. The viewer asked in an email, "Why must I drive along the overpass in the dark?" WHNT NEWS 19 made calls, sent emails and ended up talking with Madison County's Chief Engineer Richard Grace.

"I was not aware they were driving in the dark until you notifed us," added Grace.

Grace told WHNT NEWS 19 an un-signed agreement between the state and Madison County kept the lights off. The chief engineer and two commissioners told WHNT NEWS 19 there was a plan to sign the agreement. Commissioners postponed the signing during a November 2012 meeting. The commission chairman explained why at the commission's first meeting of 2013.

"We wanted to be sure the Madison County Commission was being billed appropriately for what was in the county and the city would be billed for what was in the city," said Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

The overpass goes through the city of Huntsville and Madison County. It has 34 lights. The city's portion has 15. The county's portion has 19. Commissioners voted to sign the agreement. One said not signing it was never the issue.

"It was just an issue of making sure the people of Madison county were paying their fair share of the price and we were taking care of ours while they were taking care of theirs. We are glad to do it. We are glad to move forward," added Commissioner Phil Vandiver.

WHNT NEWS 19 went back to the overpass around 1:00 am Tuesday. Some of the lights were on. Some of the lights were off. A spokeswoman with the county says all lights should be on soon.

The agreement covers how much is to be paid for electricity to the lights and the general up-keep for the lighting equipment. The money will go to Huntsville Utilities. The utility company will base their charges on meter readings.

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