Harvill updates commission on Phillips Road project

Published 8:18 am Saturday, May 22, 2021

During the Chambers County Commission work session on Monday, County Engineer Josh Harvill updated the commission on the Phillips Road project budget.

The project was originally budgeted at $3.5 million. With federal money funding 80 percent of the project, plus funding from ALDOT, the county was budgeted to put $600,000 toward the project.

Now, Harvill says the projection for the county has increased to approximately $750,000-$950,000 and the total projection is $3.89 million.

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Harvill attributes the increase to many different factors including rising fuel costs and inflation due to supply and demand.

“Obviously, fuel going up, that obviously always impacts road and bridge costs, or any type of construction cost,” Harvill explained. “But, you’ve also got this Rebuild Alabama, all this new money from the new gas tax that’s influxed into the state, and there’s only so many contractors that do road work, so they’ve got more work than they’ve ever had. So obviously, you know how the demand and  all that makes an impact.”

The increase is significant not only because of the amount of money that the county will need to put into the project, but it impacts another larger project that was planned.

The year 2019 brought about the Rebuild Alabama Act, Federal Aid Exchange Fund (FAEF) where ALDOT began allocating $400,000 to each county in exchange for the federal allocation of $533,000, which was being distributed to each county.

One of the key points of FAEF is that the funds can be used to match federal dollars, which helps the county by cutting the amount it would need to contribute.

“So what that means to us is, we didn’t have to use our $400,000 last year, our $400,000 this year is committed to this project, so $800,000 from the Rebuild program can provide our match or a portion of our match,” Harvill said.

So, depending on where the project falls, the county may not need to use any of its own funding.

That is significant because Harvill says one of the larger projects they have been working on is a railroad bridge in Waverly. Harvill says whatever money that isn’t used on the Phillips Road project was slated to go toward the Waverly project.

“I budgeted $600,000 of local funds that we would need to match Phillips Road and now we may need $750,000-$950,000,” Harvill said. “That’s going to cut into what’s available for us to put on the bridge, so it is still an overall effect to our budget.”

In May 2012, then Gov. Robert Bentley announced the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program to improve infrastructure.

At the time, the county thought they were going to be awarded more projects than they ultimately were.

“At the time, we thought we would be able to be in play so to speak, for more projects than we actually got,” Harvill said.

As a result, the county commission decided to implement a long-term transportation plan at the conclusion of ATRIP to better position the county for future funding opportunities.

In 2015, Harvill says the county identified projects that were critical to the growth of the county and created the 10-year transportation plan.

“When we looked at the county, we tried to identify critical projects to the growth of the county, both economically, residentially and commercially — the whole nine yards,” Harvill said. “We didn’t just look at [it and say] ‘this road is in bad condition we need to pave it or this bridge is in bad condition, we need to replace it.’ We actually identified our projects based on impacting emergency vehicles, commercial vehicles — the full economic viability of the county.”

Phillips Road was identified as one of the long-term projects by the commission at the time, which is in large part to the amount of traffic that flows down the .8 mile stretch.

A total of 9,247 vehicles traveled that portion of Phillips Road in 2019, according to ALDOT traffic counts.

Although the stretch of road is less than a mile, Harvill says that the work involved in relocating utilities is driving the cost.

“The project’s not really long, it’s less than a mile long, but it’s very costly,” Harvill said. “So we’ll go from a two-lane road to a minimum of three lanes for the whole project, and, you know, at certain legs of the intersection there’ll be four lanes to be able to accommodate all the different turning movements there at the intersection of Cusseta Road and Phillips Road.”