Right now, the most visible work on the northern end of Veterans Memorial Parkway — destined to one day allow quick passage between east Oxford and north Anniston — is on the new bridge and removal of an older bridge over U.S. 431.
But beyond the new bridge, Alabama’s red clay is exposed where once stood trees and foliage. The bed that will become a road is being cleared, dug and graded so that it can be paved. Once the overpass is completed in the spring of 2012, said Rebecca Leigh, spokeswoman for Transportation Department, the paving will be put out for bid.
“I would suspect that they would let it in time to go ahead and pave it before the weather got really, really cold,” Leigh said.
As long as Mother Nature cooperates, Leigh said, the road should be finished on schedule in early 2013.
Until then, the parkway will be a highly anticipated artery that locals are expecting to bring traffic and commercial business.
City Planner Toby Bennington had asked employees at Anniston Aviation to take some pictures of the development about two weeks ago to use as a marketing tool, because he believes the completed road will be a draw for businesses looking to develop in the area.
“Anytime you’re creating a dynamic traffic generator, a dynamic interchange such as that it’s a very, very key piece to marketing for that kind of development,” Bennington said. “That is going to be a very key retail, commercial-anchored area for the city.”
Calhoun County engineer Brian Rosenbalm said he’s excited to see the completion, but for other reasons. The Calhoun County Highway Department has offices at McClellan, and with the completion he expects to have convenient access to the entire county.
“I think it’s going to help a lot with the infrastructure here in our county and travel and commerce,” Rosenbalm said. “For us to be able to run out Iron Mountain Road and get on the eastern bypass, we can go back down to Oxford, towards the south part of the county,” Rosenbalm said. “Once that bridge gets completed, we can also go out 431 north. So it’s really going to help our operations.”
The construction may finish on schedule, but on budget is another story. Road construction projects are getting ever more expensive as the price of oil and gasoline climbs, Rosenbalm said. Asphalt, used to pave roads, is a petroleum-based product and is steadily increasing in cost, as is the cost of fuel for the vehicles used in construction, he said.
“It greatly affects our cost to do projects,” Rosenbalm said.
However, he noted that the increases are not keeping up with the rising costs.
“We get very competitive prices because people are hungry, because there’s no work, because there’s no jobs,” Rosenbalm said. “Obviously they’re cutting their profit margin significantly.”
Leigh said the price increases coupled with stagnant funding are already causing the department to “prioritize” future projects. However, she also said she was surprised at how contractors seemed to be holding the line on prices.
For instance, she noted that a small project advertised in August had three bids come in all slightly lower than the range the department estimated. Another large project brought in bids all on the low end, none coming close to the high end of the range the department estimated.
“We haven’t had time enough to calculate the overages that could be in some of the projects due to higher gas prices and oil prices, but we are seeing some slight increases in the bidding,” Leigh said. “When this next paving project is let, the contractors of course will build into their bids that rising cost.”
Star staff writer Laura Camper 256-235-3545.