I-85

Traffic stands still on Interstate 85 in Opelika. Six bridges at or near Exit 60 are slated for major improvements after a $10.8 million federal grant to help support the work.

Lee County officials received good news last week when the U.S. Department of Transportation announced $10.8 million in grant funding to help renovate or replace three sets of twin bridges on Interstate 85 in Opelika.

That’s good news for all of east Alabama, and for the tens of thousands of travelers who use I-85 every day.

The grant to Alabama is part of a $225 million national infrastructure effort known as the Competitive Highway Bridge Program.

The funding and go-ahead with the local bridge improvements is a much-needed boost to local highway safety on a heavily traveled stretch of I-85. Likewise, it serves as a positive influence on the local economy for local industry that uses the interstate and for local officials trying to recruit more jobs to the region.

Federal officials announced the grants Aug. 29, and local government and economic leaders working hard in recent months to secure the funding deserve kudos for their efforts.

The work will take place on bridges located at or near Exit 60 in Opelika.

“The project improves three bridges from poor condition to good and three bridges from fair condition to good,” according to a grant description. “The project supports the regional economy by improving access to several automobile assembly factories and associated industries.

“It improves a section of interstate that will result in a boost for both local and regional economies and will improve safety.”

State Sen. Tom Whatley described the need for the bridge improvements as “one of the top road safety issues in our state.”

“This is a great start to solving a real problem,” Whatley said. “It will not get the full job done but is moving public safety in the right direction. This funding will help relieve the traffic congestion and dangers that drivers face every day between the exits of 58 and 60.”

Additional details on the work, costs and timetable of the project are still to come, but news of the bridge improvements on east Alabama’s busiest and most congested highway is encouraging, both for meeting current needs and for future transportation development and improvements.

Perhaps this is the beginning of more to come, because I-85 certainly needs it as our local economy continues to grow and prosper.

We welcome the federal government’s attention to our needs, and more so the dollars to help get something done.

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