Outer Loop construction about to restart

Published: Feb. 22, 2011 at 7:04 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2011 at 8:13 PM CST
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Rendered drawing courtesy: City of Montgomery
Rendered drawing courtesy: City of Montgomery
Rendered drawing courtesy: City of Montgomery
Rendered drawing courtesy: City of Montgomery

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A major announcement was made Tuesday concerning Montgomery's Outer Loop. The Alabama Department of Transportation announced it will begin construction on the next phase of the project, and that the Outer Loop will serve as the first leg of the Interstate 85 extension through West Alabama.

The Federal Highway Administration was asked to approve a request to reallocate the balance of the $100 million I-85 extension earmark. About $90 million in federal funds and $18 million in state matching funds remains available after the cost of the I-85 corridor study.

"This allows us to move forward with building the Outer Loop as part of the I-85 extension," said Transportation Director John Cooper, who was joined by Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, and Montgomery County Commissioners Elton Dean and Reed Ingram for the announcement.

For years commuters have driven along I-85 right past several large mounds of dirt, the only construction so far. In the next few years major changes will take place and, eventually, the Outer Loop will become I-85, paving the way to extending the interstate to touch I-20/59 near the Mississippi line. A lot of work will need to be done, however.

Phase 1 is to connect the interstate to Vaughn road. That's expected to take at least 2 or 3 years to complete. Then, work will continue to connect the loop to I-65. When that is complete, what is now I-85 will be renumbered to I-685 between the Outer Loop and its connection to I-65. The initial work is expected to cost between $60 and $70 million, and costs will be divided 80/20 with the federal government paying the vast majority.

Completing the Outer Loop project from I-65 to I-85 is expected to cost approximately $500 million. To take the expansion to its projected end point near Cuba, Ala. near the state line would run approximately $2.4 billion.

ALDOT will take bids on the project in late May, and it will take several months after that before construction actually begins. It will be at least late summer before any dirt is turned over.

ALDOT estimates Phase 1 of the project will employ 3,000 to 4,000 people.

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