Leader Blues

Monday, March 30, 2009

TOP STORY >> Opening delayed for rail overpass

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The expected opening date for the new railroad overpass in Cabot has been pushed back again.

City officials were originally hopeful that the overpass would open by the fall of 2008, or at least by the end of that year.

In February, The Leader reported that the Highway Department expected the overpass to open by April 1.

The new projected opening is the end of April, but only if the weather cooperates.

“We’re in the final stages and everything is weather dependent,” state Highway Department spokesman Randy Ort said Friday.

“We’ve built half of the box culvert (on the Hwy. 38 end of the overpass) and covered it. Half is built, but soil conditions are preventing the contractor from backfilling it,” he said.

The rain must stop long enough for the soil to dry before work can continue, Ort said.

“We hope to have it open by the end of April but it could be into May,” he said.

The box culvert is a replacement for another type of culvert that was installed and rejected by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The overpass connects Hwy. 38 to Hwy. 367 and is considered the first phase of a north interchange to help handle some of the 27,000 cars a day that get off Hwy. 67-167 in Cabot.

By itself, the overpass is not expected to reduce traffic congestion much.

But Locust Street has been widened so traffic can flow easier from Hwy. 38 to the business area of Main Street.

Metroplan, the agency that funnels federal highway money to cities, says a north interchange together with the railroad overpass would take 4,000 -5,000 cars out of downtown Cabot.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams went to Washington earlier this month to ask the senators and congressmen who represent the Cabot area to find money to pay for the $19.5 million north interchange and came back with a promise from Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, that he would include $3 million to $5 million to pay for engineering and right-of-way acquisition for the project in the next five-year highway-spending plan.