Jan. 23—ATHENS — Athens will make changes at the Clinton Street/U.S. 72 intersection to improve traffic flow and also make drainage and infrastructure improvements in the Vine Street area with funding assistance from two recent grants.
The city on Thursday was awarded a $500,000 grant by the state, funded through the federal Community Development Block Grant program aimed at improving low- and moderate-income areas.
The city of Athens will supply an additional $470,000, bringing the total to $970,000 for the Vine Street Area Neighborhood Improvement Project.
Components of the Vine Street project will include adding more sidewalks, paving streets, and addressing drainage issues such as failing inlets. Streets in the project area include Vine Street, Hardy Street, Westmoreland Avenue, Bailey Street, Westview Avenue, Brownsferry Street and Levert Avenue.
The project is mainly in District 3 represented by Councilman Frank Travis. He said the Vine Street area is "a very depressed area of the city and in need of drainage and sidewalks and it's been that way for years."
Travis said the city had also applied for the CDBG grant last year, but narrowly missed receiving it.
The drainage system in this area, Travis said, is old and clogged up.
"Here's the sad part: The people in these areas, they just learn to live with it. They've been having to deal with these issues for so long that they just decided there's no use in complaining about it, that's just how life is," he said.
The project also includes demolishing dilapidated buildings if needed, according to Athens grant coordinator Holly Hollman.
"If we have some unoccupied structures that the city deems a nuisance, that we haven't had any luck tracking down the owners to get them to address the safety issues, then we can roll the cost of demolishing them," she said.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said he hopes the project will get started this summer or fall.
"It's really exciting for the quality of life and the infrastructure in that area," he said.
More than 50 Alabama cities, towns and counties received CDBG grants totaling $18.2 million, Gov. Kay Ivey announced last week.
Falkville will receive $350,000 for drainage improvements in an area bounded by East Pike Road, East Pine Street, Patton Street and Douglas Road. Another $350,000 will go to Hillsboro for drainage improvements along Oakdale Avenue and its spur roads. — Clinton Street
The Clinton Street project will primarily be funded with a $1.49 million Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program-II grant, announced Wednesday by Ivey. The increased gas tax created by the Rebuild Alabama Act is the revenue source for the grant.
In addition to the ATRIP funding, Athens will pay $372,787 for the project that has a total estimated cost of $1.86 million.
The project will create turn lanes on Clinton Street and an extended turn lane onto Clinton Street for traffic traveling west on U.S. 72. It also will relocate the traffic signal farther west of Catfish Cabin's entrance and exit.
Marks said ALDOT recognized the intersection as needing improvement.
According to Marks, there are other areas of U.S. 72 that need improvements as well.
"Some major improvements are needed right at the railroad crossing and at Cambridge Lane, but there are hurdles to have to cross to get those projects done," he said.
Marks anticipates the project will begin in the fall or in early 2023.
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