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Highway 31 four-lane not dead yet

By By Robert Blankenship
Special to the Advance
The Escambia County Commission is not ready to give up on the goal of seeing U.S. Hwy. 31 four-laned from one end of the county to the next.
Earlier in the month, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) announced that it was abandoning the project because several properties could not be purchased from homeowners and would not be condemned by former Probate Judge Devon Wiggins. But now, the county is picking up the cause and plans to continue working with the property owners in hopes of getting the project back on track.
"We are going to go through the entire process and try to negotiate reasonable settlements for the landowners who have held out so far," Commission Chairman Larry White said.
On Monday, several Escambia County officials met with ALDOT director, Joe McInnes, in Montgomery to assess other opportunities to complete the project. At the request of the county, McInnes is said to have committed complete state support for a four-lane county road to be constructed from Fannie Road to the overpass at CSX railroad, which would connect the already completed portions of the new route.
"We are pleased to have the opportunity to work toward completion of this project in the interest of public safety and convenience and to provide improved transportation throughout Escambia County," White said.
On Tuesday, the county commission approved an agreement totaling $5.8 million in federal aid and state public road and bridge funds for completion of the Highway 31 project. The commission plans to begin efforts to complete the project as soon as the agreement is executed by ALDOT officials.
"We feel like this is the right thing to do," White said. "There has been $1 million invested into this project and it would be regrettable to leave a portion unfinished. We felt that we had to make every effort to see it through," White said.