DOT snubs city again

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

The news sounded too good to be true. It was.

Last week, Alabama Department of Transportation Director Joe McInnes notified Demopolis officials that bid letting for a stretch of U.S. Highway 80 would begin in five months. The plan, McInnes said, was that ALDOT would begin taking bids to four-lane U.S. 80 West from Alabama 28 just West of Gulf States to Alabama 28 in Sumter County where it turns to go to Livingston.

Six days after McInnes called city attorney Rick Manley to inform him of the news, an engineer with ALDOT sent another letter to Manley and Mayor Austin Caldwell.

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The news devastated both Manley and Caldwell.

In reality, the fault does not like with Caldwell. Rather, ALDOT has waffled with the project for decades.

During Gov. Don Siegelman’s term from 1998-2002, he told residents of the Black Belt that he would personally get on a tractor and help four-lane U.S. 80 if that’s what it took. However, no progress was made on U.S. 80 during his tenure as Governor.

What makes matters worse is that ALDOT scheduled this section of U.S. 80 to be four-laned in November 2003. After Riley’s administration took office, the plan was moved back to November 2004. In Ray’s letter to Manley and Caldwell, the project got moved back again, this time to November 2005.

Ray’s reason for moving the project centered on land acquisition that has to take place before a project can begin.

Manley’s take on land acquisition is a bit different. In a letter to Gov. Riley, Manley indicated that most of the prep work for the U.S. 80 project has already been completed.

Both Manley and Caldwell said they haven’t given up on getting the project begun in the coming year. Manley even indicated that he would again work with McInnes and Riley to have the project moved to 2004.