A look at one billion dollars worth of road, bridge upgrades - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

A look at $1 billion worth of road and bridge upgrades

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CALERA - AL -

The state awarded additional money Wednesday to 45 Alabama counties for road and bridge upgrades, bringing the total investment made in the last 15 months to $1 billion.

On the surface, the funding has lead to smoother roads, new traffic signals and wider bridges. But it's also created more jobs and hope for economic growth. perhaps the biggest impact will be felt through this final round of projects, which includes the widening of the US 31 bridge in Calera over Interstate 65.

Since 1984, William Clayton Burton has had a prime spot to watch Calera grow.

"It's been something to watch. When I moved here, there was one service station on the road," said the owner of Burton Campers.

Burton Campers is now one of many businesses.

With the boom in business and population has come traffic jams on the two-lane US 31 bridge. The mayor says it slow drivers, emergency responders and business growth.

"We have some space for retail and businesses to locate in Calera," said Calera Mayor Jon Graham. "We are inviting them on a consistent basis and showing them what we have to offer. But this traffic seems to be the biggest pitfall."

The final round of Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP) funding will provide four additional lanes to the bridge.

Gov. Bentley says jobs won't just come from new businesses. He points to the first funded project as an example. He cut ribbon on that project, which was the widening of an Autauga County road, Wednesday.

"Not only has it improved roads, the bridges, it's kept people working. There are so many companies out there- small bridge companies across the state, small paving companies that are hiring people," said Governor Robert Bentley.

The first round of funding announced in 2012 produced mostly repaving projects in Central Alabama including a portion of Fieldstown Road in Gardendale near new subdivisions.

Many people in that area said they hadn't noticed much difference.

But Burton certainly believes the bridge project will change Calera.

"I wish they could start on it today. The longer they wait, the more traffic it will be," he said.

The governor announced $375 million in funding financed through low-interest GARVEE bonds for the final round of ATRIP projects

For a list of projects announced Wednesday, click here.

For the projects unveiled in the second round, click here.

For the initial project list, click here.

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