By Kim West
Traffic relief is in the works for bustling intersections near two high schools in Limestone County.
The city of Athens and Limestone County are partnering together to widen the intersection at U.S. 31 and Huntsville-Browns Ferry Road through a $206,000 project from the Alabama Transportation and Rehabilitation Improvement Program.
The city and county are sharing the 20 percent local match of $41,200, while ATRIP is contributing 80 percent, or $164,800.
The intersection known as Tanner Crossroads is a major artery for traffic flowing between southern Limestone County and Morgan County. The juncture also provides a direct route to nearby Tanner High School and flows traffic from the Huntsville-Browns Ferry interchange at Interstate 65.
County and city officials say the improvements, which include widening the crossroads, could encourage industrial traffic to take the Tanner exit off I-65 instead of traveling farther north and taking the Athens exit onto U.S. 72.
Several industries, including Steelcase and the new plant being built at Carpenter Technology, are located within a few miles of Tanner Crossroads.
Following completion of the intersection plans, which are being designed by Morell Engineering of Athens, the Alabama Department of Transportation will solicit bids.
East Limestone congestion
Traffic congestion has been a major issue in the area surrounding East Limestone High School for years, especially as the school population ballooned from a mid-level Class 3A school to 5A within an 11-year period.
Three road projects are slated in the East Limestone community of Capshaw, including two ATRIP projects and a joint venture between the Limestone County Commission and the county school system.
The ATRIP projects are $513,000 in improvements to the intersection of East Limestone and Capshaw roads, and $178,000 to widen East Limestone road about 500 feet from Elkins Road to the south driveway of East Limestone High School.
ATRIP will supply 80 percent of the cost for both projects, while the county is providing the other 20 percent. County Engineer Richard Sanders said both ATRIP projects are in the preliminary design stage.
The third project is an access road to divert school traffic to Elkins Road. District 2 Commissioner Steve Turner said the county would furnish labor upfront for the project, with the school system eventually reimbursing the county.
He said the project has received funding commitments from state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, and state Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Capshaw. The appropriations from the legislators, total project cost and start date for the access roadwork have not been finalized, although Turner estimated the materials would cost $7,000.
“The access road will be chip sealed and about 20-foot wide, and maybe a little wider in the curves,” Turner said. “All of this is an effort to relieve traffic on East Limestone Road. About 600 cars enter and exit East Limestone High School in the morning and afternoon, and all of this traffic has to use East Limestone Road.”