Three of worst rural roads in D-4 on tap for next round
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
By midweek more than half the roads on Escambia County District 4 Commissioner Brandon Smith’s “short list” of resurfacing projects will have been checked off.
The first phase of an ambitious plan to address all the county’s rural roads that need repairs or new surfaces has been ongoing for more than a week, and Smith — who represents Atmore and most of its outlying area — said things are moving at a steady pace.
Paving crews from Dothan-based Wiregrass Construction were putting the finishing touches to a rough patch of Jerkins Loop Monday afternoon and should be well on the way to completing more of the nine separate road-pavings by week’s end, if temperatures don’t dip below freezing or below 45 degrees over a prolonged period.
“If the weather holds up, they’ll be able to work on these roads right on up through Christmas,” Smith said. “You can’t pour asphalt if it’s very cold, so we’re hoping that the weather cooperates and we get this round done.”
Work had also been completed by midweek on Randolph and Hume avenues, which connect Cowpen Creek Road and North Canoe Road. Wiregrass paving machines were expected to pour new surfaces on short sections of Helton Road, Zorn Lane and Poplar Farms Road by the end of the week.
Smith and each of the other four county commissioners were asked to submit a list of roads or portions of roads that were in dire need of new asphalt within their respective districts. The only drawback was that the proposed first-phase projects could total no more than three miles.
Smith pointed out that the second phase, the one that will focus on longer roads deemed most expensive to repair, should be ready for implementation as soon after the new year as the weather will allow.
Funding for the massive road rehabilitation project is being derived from a $3 million Poarch Band of Creek Indians infrastructure donation, as well as from revenues generated by the 1 percent, countywide sales tax implemented in July 2017.
“Our plans are for this to be an ongoing thing,” Smith said. “My goal in my district is to touch every bad road. With the Poarch contribution and the sales tax money, we shouldn’t have to skip over any of the worst ones.
“We plan another round after Christmas, but it could be after the first of the year, when the weather warms up. It will probably be our most expensive roads because they’ll need new cross-pipes, box culverts, things like that.”
The second phase, he said, will have two sub-phases.
“We’ll do Phase 1, the parts that need construction work on them, then we’ll pave,” the commissioner explained.
Although the list of proposed projects that will be included in the early-2019 work has not been finalized, Smith said he expected portions of Old Jack Springs Road, Sardis Church Road and Tumbling Lane to be on the final roster.
“They’re going to all need new pipes,” he said, noting that each of those roads crosses district lines. “I’m working with the two new commissioners to see if they’re going to include those roads on their lists so we can get more done on them. I’m working with Commissioner (Scottie) Stewart on Sardis Road, and with Commissioner (Karean) Reynolds on Tumbling Lane.”
Smith noted that the selection of the next round of projects is focused on those that have been neglected the longest and those on which the infrastructure is in as bad shape as the roadway. He pointed out that members of the commission know the work will be time consuming, but they share the same goal.
“It might take a little longer, but we want it done right,” he said. “We know where all the bad roads are, and we plan to give them all attention. But you’ve got to get to a starting point and work out from there.
“I’ve said it before, but some of these roads haven’t seen an asphalt truck in 50 years. This is the first time the county has ever had a program to address these roads. We’ve waited this long for it, so let’s see if we can make it last another 50 or 100 years.”