Officials looking to replace Balch Bridge through federal grant

A Madison County bridge is in line for replacement if a unique statewide application is approved as part of a national transportation enhancement program.

The application, submitted by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama and its affiliate group, the Association of County Engineers in Alabama, includes a request for funding to replace county bridges in 24 Alabama counties totaling some $48 million.

The individual counties would be required to provide a 20 percent match should the application be successful and approved; Madison County intends to replace the Balch Bridge over Knox Creek located in western Madison County, north of the city of Madison, with construction costs totaling $981,807.

“We are very excited about the possibility of our application rising to the top in this national process,” said ACCA Executive Director Sonny Brasfield. “The bridges represent transportation improvements that would enhance economic development, the transportation of school children, the agriculture and forestry industry and the overall safety of Alabama’s motoring public.”

The program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, includes $600 million that will be awarded to applicants from throughout the nation.  In 2009 Alabama counties combined their efforts to seek federal funding for a similar bridge program as part of the stimulus package.  The current program emphasizes rural areas and, according to Brasfield, seems to be a better match for the bridge projects here in Alabama.

“You never know exactly how an application will be received, but the bridges included in this application are in desperate need of repair and meet the federal criteria,” Brasfield explained. “Using the accepted criteria, if this application is fully funded it should produce more than 1,400 construction jobs here in Alabama.”

Alabama has a total of 8,628 bridges on county roads — 18 percent, or 1,568, of those are considered structurally deficient. Many of these bridges were built between 1940 and 1960, and they’re reaching the end of their useful period — about 50 years. Without repairs, many will have to close.

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