Road leading to Alabama’s Shoal Creek Mine portal gets funding for much-needed work
The Alabama Coal Association (ACA) on Wednesday applauded the Tuscaloosa County Commission for a Monday vote approving nearly $482,000 in funding for much-needed work on an industrial roadway that provides access to a crucial job creator in West Alabama.
Wallace Ferry Road, which began as a gravel road providing access to a few homes, the methane industry and occasional logging operations, has seen greatly increased traffic in recent years due to the opening of the Shoal Creek Mine portal.
Miners reporting to work at the portal account for approximately 500 vehicles each day. With daily supply shipments to the portal plus traffic generated by the forestry and methane industries, the total estimated daily average on Wallace Ferry Road stands at 700 vehicles, a significant portion of which is heavy truck traffic.
The amount of traffic, in combination with the current road surface type, has led to dangerous conditions, including extensive cracking and numerous potholes. In fact, Tuscaloosa County maintenance operations has required a patch crew work on the road one week per month so far in 2019.
According to the ACA, Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) and Tuscaloosa County Commissioner Stan Acker have been leading the charge to address the crumbling road conditions.
The funding approved on Monday is a direct result of their tireless, exemplary leadership and covers the first of a two-step paving process to improve Wallace Ferry Road.
Shoal Creek Mine is currently owned and operated by Peabody Energy. In a statement, Peabody general manager for operations Eric Martin expressed his appreciation for the public sector officials who made the infrastructure improvements possible.
“Peabody applauds our state and local officials and is pleased to see the funding for these necessary repairs get approved,” Martin commented. “The safety of our people is a core value, and we are thankful for the effort to improve our employee’s commute to work.”
Reed and Acker thanked all the members of the Tuscaloosa County Commission for their support and emphasized that the funds, which were made possible by the Rebuild Alabama Act, will greatly improve safety conditions and commerce in the area.
“This facility, formerly owned by Drummond Company and now by Peabody, employs hundreds and hundreds of people that live in my district – and this facility and this roadway are in my district,” Reed explained.
“These types of infrastructure concerns are problematic for any type of industrial location, and I worked hard with Commissioner Acker to try and come up with ways we could make this road safer and more useful to the miners and Peabody, who have invested hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in my district, offering jobs to hundreds of my constituents. We want to continue to do anything we can to help and support them,” the state senator concluded.
Acker said, “These are well-paying, good jobs that allow for our workforce development efforts to put people in stable positions where they can support their families, build homes — and build better lives. If we can advance that, we’re doing what public servants are meant to do.”
Acker added that the completion of this first phase, which includes sealing the road surface, will hopefully be done in time for cold weather rolling in later this year.
Acker and Reed will both continue working cooperatively to develop opportunities for funding of the second phase, which consists of adding a layer of plant mix paving to Wallace Ferry Road from Highway 69 to the Walker County line near the mine portal. This is expected to cost an additional $650,000 and drastically improve driving comfort on the roadway.
Walker County has recently completed similar work from the county line to the portal entrance.
This comes after Reed recently was featured in Yellowhammer News’s “West Alabama and the coal industry” News Shapers event in Jasper. During that forum, Reed emphasized, “I pride myself on saying that I’m ‘the coal senator.’”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn