North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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October 19, 2010

Project could relocate families

State considers acquiring 30 properties for highway work

NORTH JEFFERSON COUNTY — Jo Young is ready to move away from a highway that she says is deadly.

Young might get that chance, as she received one of about 200 letters from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) about an upcoming meeting regarding renovations of Ala. Hwy. 160.

Of those, about 30 families would be required to relocate, according to Sandra F.P. Bonner, an environmental and planning coordinator with ALDOT third division.

“ALDOT sent letters to property owners saying we’re taking your property,” said Amy Camp, Highway 160 Promise founder and executive director. “Residents have rights. We want to make sure those are protected as well as make sure the highway is built ... We want to make sure people are properly compensated.”

Young has lived off of Ala. Hwy. 160 her entire life. She also owns a business off of the highway — Forever Young Hair Studio and Spa — and drives a school bus over the highway.

She is one of the “potential relocatee(s)” who received a letter from ALDOT.

“I’m ready to relocate. I’m tired of this,” she said. “Nobody is going to buy my house on this deadly curve.”

Young has attended almost all of the meetings hosted by ALDOT and Highway 160 Promise.

“I’m for the highway,” she said. “Something’s got to be done. There’s too much traffic. ... There have been fatalities right here at this intersection. There have been more wrecks than I can count.”

Young said her shop is located near a blind spot on the highway. She has seen many people rear-ended while they were waiting to turn into her shop.

“You have to hope and pray when you pull out,” she said. “I’ve got six employees. We’ve watched and seen enough. We hear it all: Squealing tires, ambulances, cops.”

Camp started Highway 160 Promise in 2009 in order to address the numerous car wrecks and fatalities on the highway. The names comes from a campaign promise from Gov. Bob Riley in 2006 that he would make it a priority to improve Hwy. 160.

According to Bonner, right-of-way procedures could start in early 2011. The proposed project extends from Interstate 65 to Graves Gap Road, which is about six miles.

She said that for acquisitions, relocation is usually 90 days, but that it could vary based on the construction timeline.

“The property and structure are appraised at fair market value like a bank appraisal,” Bonner said. “The appraisal is based on recent comparable sales.”

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