GOOD HOPE — The new $10 million Interstate 65/County Road 222 interchange is slated to open next month, creating an array of economic development opportunities from new industry to restaurants and shops.
The project is winding down after more than a year of construction, and local officials are currently working with the Alabama Department of Transportation to coordinate a date to open it for traffic, said Good Hope Mayor Jerry Bartlett.
“Workers were out there getting ready to pour the foundation for the sign,” he said at this week’s city council meeting.
The tentative plan is open the interchange with temporary striping before crews come back with permanent paint.
After breaking ground last fall, construction on the new interstate exit progressed steadily through 2015, picking up momentum once all utilities were relocated this summer. Warmer months provided crews with ideal working conditions.
Carcel & G Construction won the contract to build the interchange which is expected to be designated exit 305.
The interchange was initially requested a decade ago as part of a promise to Topre, located on CR-222, with the understanding that access to the interstate would be given. After years of delay, Sen. Paul Bussman and other local officials made a strong pitch to Gov. Robert Bentley and ALDOT to get the project moving again.
The cities of Cullman and Good Hope and the Cullman County Commission are sharing various costs in the project, while the main funding has been provided by GARVEE bonds secured by the state through its Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP).
The interchange opens up new opportunities for business growth for Good Hope and Cullman and provides an avenue to the planned Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and city convention center. In August, the Good Hope City Council rezoned five agricultural properties, totaling 22 acres, to business nearby the interchange, allowing for commercial development as the tracts join adjacent properties already zoned for business.
Officials hope the new interchange will not only attract new restaurants and gas stations but also visitors as a gateway to Smith Lake and new companies with existing industries nearby.
A comprehensive land use and traffic plan for property surrounding the interchange has been in the works for most of 2015. But it’s been delayed because Good Hope, Cullman, and Cullman County officials couldn’t been agree on the share each entity would pay Cullman engineering firm St. John and Associates for the study.
On Monday, the Good Hope City Council agreed to amend its initial agreement with the firm, increasing its share roughly $500 to $9,000, splitting the $18,000 bill 50-50 with Cullman.
“We want to have a plan in place where we can show businesses that are interested in locating here, this is how traffic will go in and out of a parcel,” Bartlett said. “We just don’t want to go in blind. We’re trying to plan ahead.”
Bartlett said he’s already heard from a few businesses inquiring about possible developments around the interchange. All four corners of the new interchange are located within Good Hope city limits. However, local legislation put forward by former Rep. Mac Buttram allowed Cullman to annex the adjacent former Burrow property which Cullman purchased for $1.5 million in 2011.
The 170-acre tract sits west of the new interchange along Reid Road/CR-469 and is split across the north and south sides of County Road 222, abutting Good Hope’s city limits.
The property south of CR-222 has been set aside for the proposed Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and city convention center while the land north of CR-222 — roughly 67 acres — is zoned manufacturing. Cullman received a TVA grant last year to fund sewer, water and electrical infrastructure improvements on the north side property which will be a new industrial site. The utility project is estimated to cost about $430,000, with Cullman paying half of the costs. Officials are mum on what could possibly occupy the tract.