By Fred Woods
For the Opelika Observer
In October 2014 the Lee County Commissioners unanimously approved construction of a new bridge to replace the old one-lane bridge, built in 1934, across Saugahatchee Creek on Lee Road 65 northwest of Loachapoka. Lee Road 65 is off Lee Road 188 (the old Waverly Road), and runs westward about two miles to a dead end.
A number of concerned citizens living on the western side of the bridge came to the meeting. They protested the long detour necessary while the bridge was being replaced and asked that the old bridge be left in place while the new one was being built. The county estimated the cost of this latter alternative which would require the relocation of the new bridge and relocating the road after the new structure was completed to be something more than $200,000 which was judged too expensive for the county to undertake.
For various reasons, the beginning of construction has been delayed and is now scheduled to begin in early January of next year.
Once construction begins the road will be closed from nine to 12 months. Since there is no alternative detour the lengthy (12 to 15 miles) detour route must be used for that period of time.
The group of citizens came back to last week’s commission meeting to repeat their earlier protests but the commissioners held fast to their original decision. Sometimes progress has a price. And while the commission regrets the nine to 12 month inconvenience to those residents, the county Highway Department has already spent more than $40,000 in planning and design work for the new bridge and the old 1934 bridge has long since outlived its estimated useful life. County Engineer Justin Hardee pledged to complete the project just as quickly as humanly possible.
In other action, the commission:
– heard Richard LeGrand announce his candidacy for the District 5 commission seat being vacated by John A. Harris,
– heard property owner Peter Byrd remind
commissioners of the deterioration of Lee Road 106 due to usage by heavy equipment from East Lake subdivision,
– approved the plat for Trailing Point Subdivision off Lee Road 360 on the north side of Halawakee Creek in Beulah,
– received nomination of Dozier Smith T for vacant seat on East Alabama Health Care Authority Board, and
– elected Lamar Sims and Linda Holt to fill two vacancies on the Beulah Utilities District Board.