Here’s a riddle: When are new lights also old lights? Give up? It’s when they are fabricated replicas illuminating the entrance to the Bankhead Tunnel in downtown Mobile.
The Downtown Mobile Alliance worked with the Alabama Department of Transportation to replace six lights atop the Bankhead Tunnel with ones made to look like the originals, Alliance spokeswoman Carol Hunter said.
Vince Calametti, ALDOT region engineer, said when the office got a request to replace the lights, his team looked around the yard at the ALDOT complex on the West Interstate 65 Service Road.
“The lights we have here are very similar to the lights at the Bankhead Tunnel,” he said. “We used those as a model.”
The new lights were made from the model at the complex, Calametti said. Before they were replaced, only one of the lights at the entrance to the tunnel was functioning.
The time that elapsed from the time of the request until the lights were installed was about six months, he said. The eight new lights along the walls going into the tunnel were installed about three or four weeks ago, he said.
“They’re very similar to lights the city of Mobile uses,” Calametti said. “It’s a very similar type of light. It falls in with the typical look of the area.”
Hunter said the Alliance would be requesting replacement signage on top of the tunnel in the future. As for future repairs to the tunnel, Calametti said ALDOT would be repainting the outside of the tunnel in June.
“We want to freshen all that up,” he said.
Calametti also said the agency would work to educate truck drivers about alternate routes to avoid having tractor-trailers getting stuck. The tunnel, opened to traffic in 1941, has a clearance of only 12 feet. The standard height of a tractor trailer is just over 13 feet and several drivers attempt but fail to pass through the entrance each year. New signs will flash when an oversized truck is nearing the tunnel, Calametti said.
“We’re working really hard with 18-wheelers to help preserve a pretty old structure,” he said.