CRANE HILL, Ala. (WIAT) — Viewers in Winston County reached out to CBS 42’s Your Voice Your Station concerned about roads they call a public safety hazard.
When investigative reporter Jen Cardone traveled to southeastern Winston County, she found deep potholes along several county roads.
In fact, residents and visitors to Smith Lake have started driving on the shoulders of these county roads just to avoid these big problems – and potential damage to their vehicles. The roads in question are County Roads 4006 and 4009.
Glenn Rouse has lived near Smith Lake for about 15 years.
“It’s deteriorated quite a bit in the last few years,” Rouse said. “For a long time, they’d come out and fill up the potholes, but they’ve quit doing that now.”
He’s not the only one to notice. James Kinsman moved to the area in 2020.
“It’s public safety and we need to address it as a public safety concern,” Kinsman said. “It doesn’t matter how slow we drive; the fact is we’re dodging potholes and it’s putting people at risk because you have to change your lane of traffic and just the depth of the potholes.”
So why hasn’t the county fixed it?
District 1 County Commissioner Rutger Hyche has taken the task head-on since he was elected last November to the position.
“Just because you haven’t seen us down your road doesn’t mean we haven’t been down your road assessing the situation,” Hyche said. “It took 12 years to get into this shape and it’s not going to be fixed overnight.”
With a skeleton crew and a backlog of over 700 work orders handed to him on day one, Hyche said they’ve been powering through one road at a time.
“I can’t brag on the men that stuck it out and the guys that have come on board since I took office,” he said. “They have really worked hard, and they’ve knocked out about 280 work orders.”
Hyche is asking the state for more help because he said there’s not enough revenue to fully repave the roads.
“I feel like, you know, if they came out and took a look, they might be more willing to help us out,” he said.
Tim Wadsworth is the state representative who oversees Winston County. He said he has friends who live near Smith Lake and is familiar with the issues.
“They’re not good roads that’s why we’ve got a grant application in for that,” Wadsworth said. “It’s part of the Rebuild Alabama funds.”
Wadsworth said the state is already helping Winston County since passing Rebuild Alabama 10-cent gas tax. In fact, Wadsworth said $5.7 million of that money is currently fixing Duncan Bridge.
“That bridge if it was to ever shut down it would devastate the entire east side of Winston County,” Wadsworth said. “It would not have been selected had that gas tax not passed.”
He said the state took over the bridge repair because the county couldn’t afford the yearly maintenance necessary to upkeep it.
“It’s a lot of upkeep, a lot of things they have to do,” Wadsworth said. “Part of the reason there’s no funding is because there has not been a change in the gas tax since 1992 until that change was made.”
Although the county didn’t make the cut for the first round of grants, Wadsworth said there are still two more chances this year to fund 4006 and 4009.
Until then, Hyche said they’re stripping roads down to gravel with what resources they do have until the money is available to pave.
“We’re just trying to do everything we can to do the job and do the job correctly going forward,” he said.
Wadsworth said the next rounds of grants should be announced in the next three months or so. Hyche asks for patience as they take this one road at a time.