Published: Thursday, December 02, 2010, 11:00 PM ??? Updated: Thursday, December 02, 2010, 11:04 PM
Projects to build two bridges over railroad tracks in Collegeville are on track, with design and engineering work funded and on schedule, officials said.
Engineering for a pedestrian bridge is under way, and design for the large vehicle overpass will soon follow.
"We were excited, but now we are feeling extremely good because we can begin to tell our story of how we solved the problem of the trains blocking the tracks in Collegeville," said Birmingham City Councilwoman Maxine Parker, who lobbied state and federal leaders for the funding.
The $4 million pedestrian overpass is set for completion in 2012, said Chuck Faush, Mayor William Bell's chief of staff. "Design is ongoing and will take about six months," he said.
The council recently approved design work for the $8.3 million vehicle overpass on Bell's recommendation. With the money in place, Faush said a firm will be selected to handle the work, and the project will follow a similar schedule as the foot bridge.
The city will pay more than $810,000 for design work on the two projects. Additional city money needed to match the state and federal dollars will be recommended later, officials said.
The vehicle overpass is planned on 34th Street North between 28th Avenue and 32nd Avenue. The foot bridge is planned near Hudson Elementary School.
Both structures are needed, Parker said, to give some relief to residents boxed inside the neighborhood by tracks and trains that serve nearby factories.
By 2013 Collegeville residents will be able to celebrate the completion of both projects, she said. While timing and the funding process have created tension between the mayor's office and Parker, both are now praising the other for championing the projects.
"It has never been an issue of whether or not we were supportive of the projects. It's just been the process for supporting the project," Bell said.
Parker said the project exemplifies successful local, state and federal partnership to alleviate a decades-old hazard in the north Birmingham community.
A documentary film called "Trained In" called attention to the problems with trains in Collegeville, Parker said. The film was produced by Kevin Garrison and Allison Stagg in 2007, when they were students at the University of Alabama.
State support arrived during a visit from Gov. Bob Riley, when Parker spoke to him about the trains and how they affected the students attending the school.
Parker said she plans to meet with Riley before he leaves office in January to thank him and update him on the projects.
"It's a good feeling to know you can find partners and that if you have a good cause, there are partners willing to help you," she said. "That's where the excitement came in, knowing people saw the need and wanted to help."
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