SOUTHSIDE, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama Department of Transportation will soon begin engineering work for the possible replacement of highway 77 northbound bridge over the Coosa River.

The City of Southside has pleaded with the state for at least 20 years to provide funding to replace the highway 77 northbound bridge. The bridge is currently one lane and residents want it expanded to two lanes.

More than 5,000 community members signed a petition this year urging the state to action. In the past state officials say there was no funding for the project. Southside Mayor Wally Burns says the bridge causes major traffic delays every morning and evening and is halting businesses from coming to the city. The project is not guaranteed for approval, but the now funded engineering work will make it possible to get federal funds for the project.

“It’s a great step forward. They won’t do anything without engineering work,” said Burns. “So if we get that done we will be a step ahead. In the future, if the funding is made available, we’ll have the engineering work done.”

The engineering work is expected to start on December 1, and take one year to complete. A tentative construction date is set for April 7, 2023.