Alabama and Florida officials started a jointly funded project this week that will provide a four-lane hurricane evacuation route from the Florida Panhandle to Interstate 65 in Alabama.
It’s a rare case in which a Florida county is helping fund a road project across the line in Alabama.
The addition of two lanes to Alabama 113 will not only save lives, it will save a town, Flomaton, Ala., Mayor Dewey Bondurant Jr. said Monday.
Flomaton was once a thriving town along U.S. 31 between Montgomery and Mobile, but it began to decline when Interstate 65 passed it by and replaced U.S. 31 as the main route between Montgomery and Mobile. Its population today is just over 1,500.
“As mayor of Flomaton, I know Flomaton is dying. With the four-laning of 113, the economic impact for our city and county is going to be tremendous. It will keep Flomaton from dying,” he said.
The new route will also benefit Florida by improving the route that tourists take to Pensacola area beaches. “It’s going to be win-win for everybody,” the mayor said.
U.S. 29 is already four lanes from Pensacola, Fla., to Flomaton, on the Alabama line, but then motorists fleeing a hurricane are crowded onto a two-lane road for nearly 14 miles to reach the interstate that will take them north toward Montgomery.
Escambia County, Fla., is providing $4 million toward the cost of four-laning the stretch of Alabama 113 from Flomaton northward to I-65.
“Evacuations save lives. This project is going to end up saving lives of citizens in both our states,” Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said Monday.
Grady Ralls and Sons of Evergreen provided the low bid of $22.7 million to build the four-lane road. Besides the $4 million from Escambia County, Fla., the city of Flomaton and Escambia County, Ala., are each putting up $500,000. Alabama is using federal funds to pay the remainder, said Tony Harris, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
Harris said it’s customary for states to share the cost of bridges that cross rivers along the state line. But the funding of a road project by a county in a neighboring state “is the highest profile example of mutual cooperation in the last 25 years,” he said.
The widening of the highway to four lanes should be completed in spring 2010, he said.
Bondurant said Alabama and Florida officials agreed in 1967 to four-lane the road on both sides of the state line to provide a hurricane evacuation route. Florida completed its part, but Alabama stopped after acquiring the right of way for the new lanes in the 1970s.
“Alabama wasn’t concerned about 113 because how was it going to help Alabama?” the mayor said.
Local officials began a new push after Hurricane Ivan heavily damaged Escambia County, Fla., and Escambia County, Ala., in 2004, he said.
Officials from both counties will join Riley and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, for the grounding breaking Tuesday.
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