Opelika is a fast-growing community and its traffic volume has increased tremendously over the past decade. This is particularly true among U.S. Hwy. 431 both north and south of I-85. Along a one-mile segment north of I-85, six school campuses lie adjacent to this highway and most of them have traffic signals that require motorists to stop and wait for long periods. Additionally, a large wood processing plant (West Fraser Company) is located along the northern stretch of this highway. Each day, several hundred trucks enter and leave this plant through its only entrance which lies along 431. Coincidentally, these trucks have to make a turn immediately in front of Opelika High School’s only vehicular entrance.
The segment of 431 south of I-85 is a dual routine coupled with U.S. Highway 280. This is a heavily-traveled route of five lanes with a turn lane only in the middle of the roadbed. Traffic movement at the intersection of 431 and I-85 (exit 62) is a nightmare at times because of so much congestion.
In my opinion, the solution to Opelika’s traffic problems along 431 is to construct a new bypass. Adding more lanes to the existing roadway will not solve the traffic problems of today, much less the volume that will exist five to 10 years in the future. Adding a new bypass around Opelika’s north side will have a positive impact on the city’s economy. New businesses and industry will certainly be attracted along this route. Another positive result will be that West Frazer’s main entrance could be relocated off this new bypass.
Plans for a new bypass should begin immediately because:
1. It takes several years to select the exact location, acquire the needed right-of-way and to design and build the roadway.
2. Urban build-up (new subdivisions and other permanent improvements) increases the right-of-way costs substantially.
3. The longer the delay in starting the process, the further away from Opelika the bypass will be located.
4. Take advantage of Alabama’s recently enhanced legislation to solve long-needed transportation needs. The Rebuild Alabama Act of 2019 specifically provides revenue to address congestion and to enhance economic development.
The city of Opelika and its legislative representatives (House and Senate) should join together soon in a united effort to solve Opelika’s traffic problems. Let’s not wait any longer to start the process.