Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Stalled MLK Boulevard Upgrades at Issue in Northport

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Stalled MLK Boulevard Upgrades at Issue in Northport

Article excerpt

Northport city leaders say they plan to challenge a coming reimbursement request from the Federal Highway Administration for federal funds spent on a stalled project to improve Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and must now decide whether to restart the project that has languished for more than a decade.

"The bill is coming," said David Kemp, an engineer with the Alabama Department of Transportation. "What you have not lost with the bill ... is the engineering work that has been done. If you chose to do so, you can pick that back up."

The question before the council is whether it wants to resume work on the project that is functionally dead under the current agreement for federal funds following the request for reimbursement for roughly $130,000, said Kemp, who presented an update on the situation during a Nov. 12 council work session.

"If we are going to do it, let's get it done. If not, let's cut it off and go on to something else," Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon said.

Herndon said he would like the council to make a decision in the near future, which would allow him to report the plans to the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The project, which originally included widening the road to accommodate four lanes, was started in the late 1990s but stalled in 2004 between the design phase and the acquisition of right of way following political disputes and public opposition to aspects of the project, according to the presentation at the work session. The original scope of the project was estimated to cost roughly $9 million. Federal funds were to cover 80 percent of the cost, with the city responsible for the remaining 20 percent.

The City Council chose to revive the project in 2008 with a plan from engineering firm Burk-Kleinpeter Inc. that called for the boulevard to remain a two-lane with the addition of center turn lanes, sidewalks, street lighting and curbs and gutters. The project would also include the realignment of the intersections of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Bridge Avenue and 12th Street. …

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