Coosa River toll bridge project would be ‘most significant single economic impact’ in Shelby County to date, developer Tim James says

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SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — A debate contiues over a toll bridge project that would run through Shelby County. The proposed bridge would connect Highway 280 in Sylacauga to I-65 in Calera. Some say it could bring more jobs and business while others worry about the noise and the environment

Tim James, developer of the Shelby County Toll Bridge Project, called the Coosa River Express, joined CBS 42 Morning Anchor Alissa Rothermich Wednesday morning for an interview on the project. James is also a former Alabama gubernatorial candidate and a son of two-time Alabama Gov. Fob James.

The discussion over this bridge has been in the works for 20 years. You were interested in the beginning, you said it wasn’t the right time. Why now?

The season is here, I think. We started looking at it about a year ago, and things have just come together. Birmingham has grown south, and this is the next wrung…a new corridor…engineers have laid it out; this is where they would lay the project.

Let’s start with the positives. What are the benefits to having the bridge built?

It’s an economic driver. It will connect 280 to I-65 and South Shelby County. It opens up an area that really sort of needs a shot in the arm. And it takes traffic from I-65, Calera, Pelham, Bessemer..going to Auburn, going to Georgia, in the reverse. It’s an avoidance of 280 — that’s a problem. It’s a safety factor. It’s all about safety. And we think that it will probably, if this thing is built, it will be the most significant single impact economically that South Shelby County has ever seen.

The company will pick up the tab for building this, but there’s some concern from area homeowners and taxpayers. Who will foot the bill for repairing it in the long run?

We have proposed to Shelby county to put into Escrow a $3 million amount of money on the beginning before construction starts. That will pay for the first recycle, or the first cycle of resurfacing, which should happen in seven to 10 years. So the taxpayers won’t really pick it up until the next cycle, and you’re looking at 15-20 years down the road. And by then, certainly there will be development, and you’ll be in the normal flow like any other road in the state of Alabama will be, over time.

The toll will be $2 per car per way. Will the counties it runs through see a cut of that?

Yes, We have proposed and we already have in the license in Talladega County a 5% royalty “forever.” That comes form distributions, so if we make money, then 5% will go to each county and they build up funds to pay for additional maintenance on this road or other roads. It will be up to them.”

There was a public input meeting last night. What’s the next step in this process?

We’re going to continue going down the road to educate the people of Shelby County. The commissioners are very thoughtful because they are taking their time, they’re methodical in it. The single most important piece of data we’re waiting on will be a full economic impact statement and it’s being done by Auburn University, and it should be done in late March, and hopefully the county will proceed with the vote after that.


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