Leader Blues

Friday, December 26, 2008

TOP STORY > >Overpass won’t open until ’09

Leader staff writer

The new railroad overpass in Cabot that was supposed to open in November and then in December will actually open about the first of March. And that new date is a definite maybe.

The delay was caused by a problem with culverts, city officials say.

The $7.2 million overpass will connect Hwy. 38 to Hwy. 367. On the Hwy. 38 end, the road needs to be widened, but the weather has not cooperated, so now the estimated completion date has been set for 60 days from the first of the year.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said this week that he would like for the overpass to be ready by the time students are back in school following the spring break.

Williams said he has met with school officials and it shouldn’t be a difficult transition for most if not all the buses that cross the railroad track about 100 times a day, to use the overpass instead.

The overpass, which has been in the works for a decade, has always been Williams’ project. He worked on it with Alderman Ed Long when they were on the city council together. At that time, the mayor worked for the railroad, and he said he saw near misses at the Polk Street crossing that will close when the overpass opens.

“I’ll tell you this,” the mayor said Friday, “I’ll be there when they open it.”

In addition to keeping buses off the railroad track, the overpass is the first phase of a $20 million north interchange connecting U.S. 67/167 to Hwy. 367 that the mayor also hopes will be built within a few years.

“You have to have an overpass before you can have a north interchange,” he said. “That’s done. Now it’s time to move on to the next step,” the mayor said after an appreciation dinner for the Highway Commission in November.

“Somebody’s going to get it. It might as well be Cabot. We’re here. We’re committed. We’re not asking for a handout; we’re asking for a hand up,” he said.

In the meantime, the mayor is widening Locust Street to get it ready for the increased traffic load that he believes will be dumped there when the railroad overpass opens.

The overpass and Locust Street will become the new bypass for traffic congestion downtown, he said.