ALDOT opens bids for Highway 157 4-lane project

A 3.5-mile stretch of Alabama Highway 157 through Cullman, including the infamous “bridges to nowhere,” is the only portion of the 90-mile road that does not already have four lanes. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) on July 31 opened bids for its project to widen Alabama Highway 157 through Cullman’s north side to four lanes- from just east of U.S. Highway 31 to just past Cullman Regional. A 3.5-mile stretch of the road through Cullman is the only portion of the 90-mile highway that does not already have four lanes. A low bidder has been named, but a contract has not yet been awarded, according to ALDOT.

ALDOT labeled the project “BUILD-NHS 0157 (506)” and described it:

“For constructing the additional lanes (grading, drainage, pavement, ITS [Intelligent Transportation System], and traffic signals) on SR-157 from the junction of SR-69 to a point east of the junction of SR-3 (US-31) in Cullman. Length 4.245 mi.”

The project was expected to cost between  $14,601,211 and $17,845,925, part of a total cost of more than $28 million, offset by a federal grant awarded to the City of Cullman.

The bids opened by ALDOT included:

  • Chilton Contractors (Clanton) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $14,895,273.05
  • Carcel & G Construction, LLC (Hanceville) . . . . . . . . . . . . $15,675,744.99 
  • Reed Contracting Services, Inc (Huntsville) . . . . . . . . . . . . $16,262,823.47 
  • Wiregrass Construction Company, Inc. (Dothan) . . . . . . .  $18,149,257.00


New devices for emergencies and speed control

The project includes base preparation, drainage and erosion control, paving and striping, and also includes specialized traffic signals to replace current signals at:

  • Alabama Highway 69 intersection
  • Hospital Drive (Cullman Regional) intersection
  • Eva Road intersection
  • Childhaven Road intersection


Additionally, a signal will be added at the Dahlke Drive intersection. 

The new signals will include emergency vehicle preemption systems, which allow emergency responders to control the signals for faster and safer passage, at Dahlke Drive, Eva Road and Childhaven Road. Radar detection units will be installed with the new signals at all intersections.

Once construction begins, the project is expected to take 330 days to complete.

City got federal grant to move project up list

In October 2018, ALDOT said the project was part of its five-year plan, but specified that the timetable was contingent on the agency’s ability to procure the necessary funding. Cullman was able to move the project up on ALDOT’s schedule by applying for and receiving a $14 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) program. The City received the grant in December 2018.

Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs said in his announcement of the grant that there were between 900 and 1,000 grant applications across the United States, and only 10% of those were awarded.

“This $14 million grant, to my knowledge, is the largest grant the City of Cullman has ever been awarded,” he said.

Jacobs talked about the importance of the project, especially concerning access to Cullman Regional. This two-lane portion of Hwy. 157 is the direct route to Cullman Regional, which serves more than 175,000 people in a six-county area. The current traffic congestion on this road makes it difficult at times for emergency vehicles to reach the hospital. More than 15,000 cars travel this two-lane section of road daily, which includes trucks trying to get from local industries to Interstate 65.

“Highway 157 is like 90 miles of road, and the whole corridor is four-lane, except for this last 3.5 miles,” said Jacobs. “Numerous ambulances run up and down that stretch. We all know how congested that stretch can get. If for some reason it ever got shut down, somebody could die having to go around to get to the hospital. That was honestly included in our grant application.”

“Bridges to nowhere”

The “bridges to nowhere” in the 3.5-mile corridor, one over the railroad and one over Lake Catoma, were completed over two years, finished in 2013. Widening of the road was postponed indefinitely because of a lack of funding. The bridges have been the subject of much controversy among Cullman County residents, who have frequently voiced frustrations about the completed bridges being inaccessible.

According to Jacobs and Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) Director Dale Greer, however, if not for those bridges, this grant would not have been possible.

“Poor old ALDOT took a whipping about these two bridges sitting out there cause they’re finished but not being utilized. Well let me tell you, without those two bridges, we could not have gotten this grant,” said Jacobs, “because part of this grant process was it’s got to be a project that’s pretty well ready to go. Over 90% of the right-of-way of has already been acquired and the bridges are completed. All of this money has to be spent by 2025. That sounds like a long time until you start doing road work. They’ve already got quite a bit of the engineering done; they’ll have to clean it up and get it to that point. If those bridges weren’t already there and those things, we couldn’t have even applied.”

Jacobs added, “Our team at the City of Cullman did a remarkable job preparing this grant. The city of Cullman, Cullman County and the surrounding area will benefit greatly from this project. The City, County, state delegation and leaders in Washington D.C. worked in unison so that we knew at the end of the day, we did all we could to give Cullman the best shot at this opportunity. Today, we can say that through the efforts of many hard-working people, we have seen this process across the finish line.

“I would like to thank our federal delegation – especially Senator (Richard) Shelby (R-Alabama) and his staff. Also, I want to give a big thank you to our staff here at the City of Cullman. Without their persistence and drive on securing this grant, it would not have happened.”

In June 2020 the Cullman City Council signed two resolutions to award contracts to Apel Machine & Supply for water and sanitary sewer relocation. Jacobs said construction for the project will likely begin in September.

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W.C. Mann