Cleburne Co. must look elsewhere for bridge work savings, state says
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Oct 16, 2013 | 3201 views |  0 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HEFLIN – Cleburne County’s request to do some of the preparatory site work for its numerous bridge replacement projects was denied by the Alabama Department of Transportation, a county official said this week.

However, ALDOT will work with the county to save money in the design phase of the projects, said DeJarvis Leonard, division engineer for ALDOT.

The county has 12 old bridges eligible for replacement with new bridges capable of handling school bus traffic under the Alabama Transportation and Rehabilitation Program. It applied for the Rural Assistance Match Program to fund the replacements. The RAMP program was designed to provide the matching dollars required in ATRIP. In the first round of RAMP allocations, the county was awarded $5 million – $4 million in federally-funded ATRIP money and $1 million in state-funded RAMP money. Gov. Robert Bentley allocated an additional $1.6 million in federal funding to Cleburne County in July in the third round of RAMP allocations. That last $1.6 million will require a 20 percent match, Leonard said.

County Engineer Shannon Robbins was unsure if the money would stretch to replace all 12 bridges without some cost saving measures. It depends on the market conditions, he said. With bridges all over the state being rebuilt at the same time, the competition for the labor and materials for doing the projects may drive up costs, he said.

The county was hoping to stretch its grant dollars by doing some of the site preparation work at eight of the bridge locations with county staff and requested permission from ALDOT, which is administering the two programs. With that option denied, the county will have to cut elsewhere.

Leonard said the department is working with the county to mitigate costs, but it chose a different route to reduce possible liability.

“This is federal funds routed through ALDOT,” Leonard said. “ALDOT has the responsibility to oversee the projects.”

Right now the county estimates it will cost $8.5 million to do all 12 bridges and two additional bridges in the city of Heflin.

Heflin Mayor Rudy Rooks said those two bridges were additional projects the city was allowed to do with RAMP funding because of stipulations placed in the legislation that created the program. According to the legislation, counties are required to allow cities to use some of the RAMP funding for their bridge projects, Rooks said.

Heflin applied for and received $190,000 in federal ATRIP funds to replace Bells Mill bridge in town, but two other bridges were also eligible for replacement under the program – a bridge on Winstead Road over Cane Creek and one over Cahulga Creek on Campbell Street. The city took advantage of the option and will replace those bridges at a later date with RAMP funding, Rooks said.

Plans are underway for 10 of the bridge projects, according to Cleburne Commission Chairman Ryan Robertson.

Those include projects on County roads 94, 50, 31, 2, 5, 96,18, two bridges on 118, three bridges on County Road 49 and the two bridges in Heflin.

Staff writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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