An Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) assessment meeting held Thursday near Holly Pond for those who may be impacted by planned improvements to U.S. Highway 278 East, will have no bearing on improvements being sought to a stretch of 278 in the city of Cullman.

According to Johnny Harris, first district engineer with ALDOT's Guntersville office, the two projects are separate and as such will require separate corridor studies.

"The improvements being considered in the city of Cullman are separate from the widening and other improvements being considered for Highway 278, just west of Holly Pond, to the Blount County line and beyond," Harris said Friday. "One of the purposes for Thursday's meeting was to receive public input in regard to a corridor reassessment which is required in order to qualify for federal funding. The project in Cullman is already eligible for federal funding support."

A delegation of local, state and federal representatives who support the widening of U.S. Highway 278 East in Cullman recently met with ALDOT officials in Montgomery.

The purpose of the meeting was to obtain a commitment from ALDOT to proceed with an engineering study for the proposed widening project, which seeks to four-lane and five-lane a 2.4-mile stretch of Highway 278 extending roughly from Fourth Avenue Southeast to the "Y" at East Point where highways 278 and 69 split.

U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt recently announced the appropriation of $500,000 to be used to fund a study of the proposed improvements along 278 here in Cullman.

"We hope to get a commitment from the state to proceed with that study," Green said. "Hopefully that will in turn lead to a commitment by the state to place a high priority on the 278 widening project."

Earlier this year, $2.8 million was included as part of a federal transportation funding bill to make Highway 278 a four-lane road from Interstate 65 to U.S. Highway 231.

Green and others said it is imperative for Cullman to move quickly to let the state know that they would like to see those funds used for improvements here in Cullman.

Harris said he believes the meeting in Montgomery had the desired effect.

"It's my understanding that the determination has been made that a portion of the funding approved by the Department of Transportation may be used for the engineering study in Cullman," Harris said. "All we're waiting on is the official authorization from Montgomery. Unfortunately I don't have a handle on exactly when that will come, however, I do expect it to be forthcoming.

Among the Highway 278 East improvements being sought in Cullman are the following:

• A one-mile section of the highway from Fourth Avenue to Richard Avenue would be widened to four lanes.

• A center turn lane would be added along a 1.4-mile section of highway from Richard Avenue to the 278/69 split at East Point.

• The existing two-lane bridge over Eight Mile Creek near the entrance to St. Bernard Abbey would be replaced with a five-lane bridge. The elevation of the bridge could be raised to improve the existing grade entering and exiting the bridge. The approximate cost of the bridge replacement is $1 million.

Woody Jacobs, president of the Cullman City Council, said he is excited about the planned improvements, both in the city and elsewhere along 278.

"I think everyone stands to benefit from any improvements to 278 in Cullman County and that extends from Cullman to the Blount County line," he said.

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