I-85 route narrowed down

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2005

After sharing their plans with Montgomery and Selma earlier this week,

project leaders on the long-range project to extend Interstate 85 will seek comments from Demopolis citizens Thursday night.

The meeting, planned for 5 to 7 p.m. at the Demopolis Civic Center, is a “show and tell” of the engineer’s plans, Alabama Dept. of Transportation spokesman Tony Harris said.

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“We’ll show our preliminary thoughts about the corridor and give the public a chance to respond,” Harris said.

At the Montgomery meeting Monday night, Volkert&Associates, the Mobile-based consulting firm in charge of the project, released a map that narrowed down the possible route of the I-85 extension.

The map contained a range in which the interstate might run, spanning from just north of Demopolis, to just north of Linden. But all indications say it will cut somewhere across U.S. Highway 43 between Demopolis and the county seat.

Jay Shows, president of the Chamber of Commerce and executive secretary of the Industrial Board, said “85 is very, very early in the process,” and the effect on Demopolis commerce is unclear.

If the route is closer to Linden, he said, “there could be a negative impact,” because cars would be less likely to pass through the city on cross-state drives.

However, if the construction takes I-85 just south of Demopolis, “it should be a positive from an industrial standpoint,” Shows said.

Many industries, he said, will only consider cities with an interstate highway in easy striking distance.

“If I-85 is five miles away, we should start getting a lot more looks than we’re getting now,” he said.

But either way, the discussion is very speculative. Volkert and Associates have said they are now starting a 30-month planning phase. After that, Harris said, “we’ll know the right-of-way, and what property we have to acquire.”

Demopolis mayor Cecil P. Williamson said she’s excited about the project.

“What it’s going to actually do is offer accessibility for economic development, and that’s what we’re looking for — economic development,” Williamson said. “I’d like to see economic development in whatever form – from a manufacturing plant to a retail establishment. We want to bring in better-paying jobs and more opportunities for the people who already live here.”