Madison County Commission discusses possible closure of Old Hwy 431 bridges

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- If you've ever driven Old Highway 431 in Madison County, you know to take it easy on those one-lane bridges.

A few years ago state lawmakers passed legislation that set aside $8.4 million  for the widening of those bridges.

"We're looking forward to that process to carry out, however right now there seems to be some interruption in the process," said Commissioner Craig Hill.

Hill is the District 3 Madison County Commissioner. He said the Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, is now considering moving that money to a different project.

"I just want the constituents to know in that area of district 3, and district 5, that there's a possibility that those roads may be closed. Right now with our money not being where we think it should be, we're concerned about that project," said Commissioner Hill.

The bridges were built in the 1920's. In 1987 a traffic study was done that had only 525 cars a day using the bridges. Fast forward 30 years to the most recent traffic study that was done in 2015.

"2,495 a day were counted on those bridges, and you know about 2,500 people a day across those bridges that's a concern for the safety," said Hill.

He said completion of the project needs to be a priority, "All the constituents in that area know that it's a safety concern, and we need to make sure the project carries out, and MPO holds the key to that."

Jane Tuggle has lived in the area for 17 years. She said something needs to be done about the bridges.

"We've been promised that those bridges would be fixed because it is dangerous out there," she said.

Those going south on the bridges have the right of way. If you're going north you're supposed to yield.

"We've had a lot of near misses out there," said Tuggle.

Laura Patrick has experienced some of those near misses. She said the problem is you can't see who you're supposed to yield to.

"I have a daughter who's a driver, and my son is 14 he'll be driving soon. That was a concern, I thought they were going to repair the bridges before she started driving," she explained.

Patrick said they're not looking to get the bridges closed permanently.

"It's a major access point between everybody that lives out there. There are communities being built out there by the city and the county, large neighborhoods. We're looking to have them improved, to have them two-laned," she said.

Tuggle said permanently closing the area would cause a huge inconvenience for residents who will have to take another route.

"I would say 20 minutes maybe out-of-the-way. So that makes a difference, especially the folks that are trying to get to work, that makes a big difference," she said.

She said if they decide to close the bridges permanently, they need to have an alternate plan. She doesn't want them to be forgotten out there.

"I'm afraid what would happen if they close them. They take care of the problem, but no solution is ever in place," said Tuggle.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold a meeting on August 30th to vote on the project.

"I'm not looking at closing the bridges from my office. I'm looking at options if the money is not available to complete the project as it was designed," said Commissioner Hill.

However, it will all depend on what happens at that MPO meeting. Commissioner Hill's office doesn't want to close the bridges, but that may be what they have to do from a safety standpoint, pending the MPA vote.