U.S. 98 Roadwork Top Priority

Mike Finnegan

Following a $65 million allocation of the BP settlement funds to Alabama’s coastal highways, U.S. 98 has been moved to the top of roadwork priorities in southern Alabama.

U.S. 98 has had over 50 fatal collisions from 1995 to 2008 on the 17-mile highway that stretches from the Alabama-Mississippi state line to the city of Mobile. The cause of the danger stems from the high traffic of beach tourists making their way to the Gulf of Mexico and heavy truckers, steaming along the highway, which narrows from four lanes to two lanes as the highway transitions from Mississippi to Alabama. The conditions have caused locals to name the highway “Bloody 98.”

The new project is set to cost $110 million. However, the plans do not include expanding Alabama’s stretch of U.S. 98 into a four-lane road. Instead, the current designs are to construct a 12-mile U.S. 98 bypass that will be paved for two lanes but leveled and grained for an eventual four-lane roadway.

The bypass will meet up with eight miles of already completed pavement that has been unused since construction on that road stopped in 2007. The original roadwork on the U.S. 98 bypass came to an end after only a couple years of work when substantial sediment from the construction ended up running off into sources of local drinking water.

“The job has been redesigned,” said Vince Calametti, ALDOT’s Southwest Region’s chief engineer, to AL.com. “There was an environmental assessment, and it will have to be re-evaluated. It will be one of the first things we get done.”

Calametti went on to say construction on the bypass could begin next summer.