Newspaper

Few things can frustrate people more than lengthy road maintenance on a heavily-traveled thoroughfare.

Welcome to Cullman, where two main-traveled roads — U.S. 278 and U.S. 31 — are undergoing resurfacing and some structural changes.

There is also a portion of I-65 just south of Cullman that is being resurfaced and creating complaints from commuters traveling north and south – it’s an inconvenience, but once completed, it will be welcomed by motorists.

The U.S. 278 and U.S. 31 work will take several weeks before it is completed, but positive and negative points concerning the project have been a topic of conversation locally.

Several business owners located on U.S. 278 have lost parking spaces along the highway. While welcoming the road resurfacing, they were not expecting the loss of customer parking.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) started the $3 million project on U.S. 278 with safety concerns in mind. The project stretches roughly 5 miles through Cullman, beginning at Interstate 65 to Alabama Highway 69 at East Point. An estimated 14,000 to 15,000 vehicles travel that stretch of road daily.

Accidents have been attributed to some motorists attempting to turn over double-striped lines along the path. Most of those trouble points are being eliminated by the concrete barrier erected along much of the highway. The barrier has been a concern of law enforcement, fire and medical personnel because of the difficulty of crossing over the barrier during an emergency.

ALDOT officials say some concessions have been made along the way after meeting with City of Cullman officials.

The troubling aspect of the project is few people were aware of the changes planned by the state. The barrier may have merit in places, but the loss of parking spaces for unknowing business owners and concerns of emergency responders should have been taken into consideration before the projected started.

Thankfully, state and local officials have been talking and looking at ways to make improvements before the project is complete.

Drivers will eventually find the ride smoother because of the state’s work. However, while there is a dialogue concerning U.S. 278, one subject that should be included is the speed limit through the heart of downtown. Many motorists are seen running red lights and speeding up to get ahead of other vehicles – the intersections of U.S. 278 and U.S. 31 and where U.S. 278 crosses Fourth Avenue S.E. by The Times are two prime examples.

The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, merchants and city leaders have been encouraging more foot traffic through downtown, but U.S. 278 is too often like a racetrack. That’s in contradiction for what the community needs downtown.

While this project is ongoing, we recommend ALDOT consider lowering the speed limit for several blocks through downtown in an effort to reduce accidents and protect pedestrians. The project, after all, is about safety. With so many people enjoying downtown shops and festivals, a lower speed limit seems to make sense.

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