Highway 113 expands locally
By By Lisa Tindell
What has been 40 years in the making is on its way to becoming a reality as officials from Alabama and Florida gathered near Flomaton Tuesday to symbolically break ground for construction on Alabama 113.
"I have a letter dated Aug. 31, 1967 from Florida that indicates their desire to see a four-lane road through Florida and Alabama to aid in evacuations," Flomaton Mayor Dewey Bondurant said. "Well, 40 years later, we've final ly made it."
Bondurant was speaking of the culmination of events that have led to the construction phase of a four-lane road that will span the 14-mile strip of highway that leads from U.S. 31 to I-65 north of Flomaton.
With $4 million in assistance from Escambia County, Fla., officials with the Escambia County Commission, the town of Flomaton and Gov. Bob Riley joined for the special ceremony. The construction of the project, which was approved in August of last year, is expected to begin today with prep work and should be completed in the spring of 2009, according to officials with Riley's office.
"This was started 40 years ago," Riley said. "We could have done this before, but you didn't have the elected officials that would put aside boundaries then and make this happen."
The project is being made possible through funding from several sources.
Alabama is committing nearly $23 million to the project with the city of Flomaton and Escambia County, Alabama each providing $500,000 each to the project. Escambia County, Fla., has committed to contributing $4 million to bring the project to completion.
Riley heaped praises on Bondurant for his tenacity in seeing the project through to the point of construction.
"Mayor Bondurant is one person who has no conception of what no means," Riley said. "He has a vision for this area. During this process, when another page was turned there would be a new obstacle. He worked to find a way to put it all back together and overcome those obstacles to make this project happen."
Bondurant said the project would not have been possible if not for the cooperation of officials in Escambia County, Fla.
"I am humbled by the way we were treated by the people of Escambia County, Fla.," Bondurant said. "Gov. Riley came through with what he promised and the dream is now coming true."
J.R. Jones, chairman of the Flomaton Chamber of Commerce, said the project not only benefits the Flomaton community but will benefit many other areas as well.
"This is not a regional project or a county project," Jones said. "This project will have benefits for a lot of people in two counties and in two states."
Officials on the state and local level believe the project will also have economic impacts on the region.
"The fact that Alabama 113 will be a four-lane highway when the project is complete will mean the possibility of new development for both retail and industry," Marshall Rogers, executive director of the Escambia County
Industrial Development Authority said. "There is already property for sale through the area of the project. With the widening of the road, it will become more desirable by business and industry. We hope to be able to market that property to business owners that will help Escambia County experience growth."
State Department of Transportation Director Joe McKinnish agrees.
"When I became the director of the DOT, I asked Gov. Riley what I was supposed to do," McKinnish said. "He said safety is our number one concern.
You'll hear a lot about what people want. Find out what they need and the wants will come later. Finally, if it is positive for economic development then it should be considered. This project meets all of those criteria. The road will be safe, it meets the needs of thousands of residents in the area and will certainly be a vehicle for economic development."
One of the purposes of the new construction is to help with during emergency situations connected with hurricane evacuations.
Riley said that Alabamians have found out that hurricanes know no boundaries and when evacuations are needed, four lanes of traffic can not be put onto two lanes for very long.
"A hurricane is no respecter of county or state lines," Riley said. "The level of cooperation in the processes surrounding this project has shown that people can put aside their differences. If a family in Florida is in danger because of a level 4 or 5 hurricane, we want to welcome them to Alabama. Evacuations save lives and this project is going to end up saving lives of citizens in both our states. By working together, Alabama and Florida will widen this evacuation route and get more people out of harm's way."