Two members of Mobile’s Metropolitan Planning Organization board advocated for more resources to be put toward the widening of U.S. Highway 45.
While MPO members discussed an update to the area’s long-term plans, Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson and Prichard City Councilman Lorenzo Martin both argued the roadway connecting their two cities should be widened and resources used by the MPO should be used to pay for it.
“Interstate 10 in Mobile exits onto only four-lane roads,” Richardson said. “Interstate 65 in Mobile exits onto four lanes at Government (Boulevard), Airport (Boulevard), Dauphin (Street) and Springhill (Avenue). “When you get to Highway 45, you hit two lanes.”
While the MPO uses traffic counts to measure whether a roadway needs to be widened, Richardson argued that drivers simply avoid St. Stephens Road in favor of a street with more capacity, meaning traffic counts on Highway 45 are moot.
“The reason there is no traffic is because drivers go the other ways,” he said. “We need new criteria to address issues in the inner city.”
In addition, Richardson complained that the infrastructure supporting the roadway was insufficient and needed to be upgraded.
“We’re not talking about a city street; we’re talking about a U.S. highway without sidewalks, curb and gutter,” he said. “I’m saying as we plan for 2020, you’re going to hear from Fred Richardson.”
South Alabama Regional Planning Commission Transportation Director Kevin Harrison explained that the state ultimately controls the spending when it comes to roadways like Highway 45 and funding for it has not been allocated.
Harrison added that the MPO already conducted a study on 45 and other projects, like the widening of Schillinger Road, showed more of a need using traffic counts and other SARPC methods, he said, which are used all over the country.
“I don’t know what else we can do,” Harrison said.
Martin told his colleagues that at some point the organization would have to “step up.”
“We can’t sit at this table and be OK with a Schillinger Road expansion … and not look at Highway 45,” Martin said.
While no one on the MPO currently is responsible for the issue, Richardson said he believes racial discrimination could be at the root of the issue.
“We have an opportunity to correct these errors in judgement,” he said. “People living in my district, in (Martin’s) district have as much right to access the interstate as anybody else so they can get out.”
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