Little John - Vaughn Lane intersection Pell City 1 tw.jpg

Improvements to the Little John Drive and Vaughan Lane intersection are expected to begin Monday, Nov. 26.

PELL CITY – The city will move forward with improvements to the Little John Drive and Vaughan Lane intersection, despite some criticism about the timing of the project.

“Who in the world makes the decision to work on a horrible, flawed road design during the Christmas Holidays?” Cathy Henderson Reid posted on the St. Clair Times Facebook page. “What part of that makes sense? SMH (Shaking my head).”

The intersection is the main entrance into Bankhead Crossing, where the Walmart Supercenter is located. The baseline improvements will begin the Monday after Black Friday, Nov. 26. Gillespie Construction has 30 days to complete the project, which will cost the city $94,645.

“So they have to be done the day AFTER Christmas?,” posted Amanda White on the St. Clair Times Facebook page. “As badly as this is needed (and TRUST ME….it’s NEEDED), this is possibly the most insane and poorly thought out timing ever…Not to mention the new theater that’s supposed to open in the same time frame.”

City Manager Brian Muenger said it was important the municipality move forward with the improvements, which will include a wider right-hand turn radius, re-striping and curb/gutter work. City officials could later consider the installation of a signal light.

“We considered the timing, but ultimately, the consistently high volume of traffic means that even a delayed start would still inconvenience, on some level, many citizens,” Muenger said. “At the same time, I view a delayed start at placing us even further away from our ultimate goal of improving the intersection beyond the baseline improvements.”

Street Department Superintendent Greg Gossett said traffic impacts should be at a minimum.

“Through previous traffic counts taken at the intersection, the city is aware of the peak traffic times and will seek to limit lane closures during those times,” Muenger said.

In accordance with the contract between the construction company and the city, no more than one lane of traffic may be blocked on Vaughan Lane or Little John Drive for more than two hours between the hours of 7 a.m.-7 p.m. without prior approval by the municipality.

Muenger said with respect to the project timing, the city received the required easement to widen the right turn lane off Little John Drive on Sept. 6. The city began advertising the project in late September.

“State bid law requires that the opportunity be advertised for a minimum of three consecutive weeks,” Muenger said.

The engineer overseeing the project must review all contracts and make a recommendation based on the lowest responsible bidder. The City Council must then officially approve the recommended contract. Once the contract is approved, the contractor is normally given at least 30 days before beginning the project.

Gossett said if a lane closure is required, city police will help direct traffic.

The work also comes at the time when the new $9 million entertainment center is expected to be completed in mid-December. The new “Premiere Cinertainment,” has seven movie theaters and a 12-lane bowling alley, along with a ropes course.