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Start I-85 right here, city says

If the Demopolis City Council has their way, the extension of I-85 will begin in their town.

Thursday, the council voted unanimously to request construction begins in Demopolis.

Most people were under the impression interstate extensions had to be from an interstate to an interstate, Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said. But, she said, this was not the case.

“I was under the impression that if you are going to build an interstate, it has to go from an interstate to an interstate,” Williamson said. “You do not. You can start at any one of these points and end at any one of these points.”

There was no reason, Williamson said, they could not request Demopolis to be the first site of construction.

“We can ask for the first construction to begin right here in Demopolis,” Williamson said. “That is what this resolution says. It is for the first construction to begin right here.”

Paul Griggs, Project Manager for Volkert and Associates, said the idea is to get the interstate in the places with the greatest need first.

“The Department of Transportation is tasked with building the interstate where it is needed most,” Griggs said. “That can be done in usable segments or continuously.”

Beginning in Demopolis, he said, was one of many possibilities that would help them take advantage of U.S. Highway 80 to keep traffic flowing during construction.

“One of the possibilities is to start construction somewhere and route it to U.S. Highway 80, which is the reasonable route,” Griggs said. “They could build it in segments that would be like a bypass.”

Of course, Griggs said, the possibility still remains to begin in Montgomery or at 59/20 and work continuously.

For now, a starting point and definite route have not been established for the new freeway, which is designed to create a faster way for people to get from Montgomery to Mississippi.

The current project includes a Corridor Study and the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.

As the initial steps are taken in this phase of study, the project area will be investigated and alternate alignments will be developed and evaluated.

Tentative meetings are scheduled to gather input for September of 2006 in Montgomery, Selma and Demopolis.

The meetings are important, Williamson said, because they give valuable input on what problems could arise from a particular route.

“I have been to four meetings,” Williamson said. “And every time they have said based on citizens input, they have moved things. They have done things based on citizens input.”

Getting feedback from the public, Griggs said, was crucial. When people fill out comment forms at their public hearings, he said, they consider all of them.

“We don’t throw any of them away,” Griggs said. “If they come in after the deadline from the previous meeting, we save them and put them in with the comments from the next meeting.”

Between meetings, Griggs said, people can e-mail them at I85@volkert.com or send letters to:

Volkert and Associates

P.O. Box 7434

Mobile, Alabama 36670