JeffCo Plots a Course for Road Repairs

Cal Markert, director of the county’s Roads and Transportation Department. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Jefferson County is moving in the right direction in the area of road repairs but it’ll be a while before the county reaches its desired destination.

“The commission has worked real hard to get us funding,” said Cal Markert, director of the county’s Roads and Transportation Department. “I think with the county manager we’ve got a great team and I’m really excited about where we’re going. It’s not going to happen in a day or a year. It’ll take several years, but I think we’ve got a good plan and a good target to move to.”

Markert presented the fiscal year 2018 highway management plan for Jefferson County to commissioners during their meeting Thursday morning. The report was the result of an inquiry from county manager Tony Petelos about the status of roads and bridges in the county.

After studying the situation for several months, Markert produced a 5-year plan to get roads to a much better standard. That plan also includes bridges, traffic lights, guardrails and other related items.

According to the report, there are 2,000 miles of road in Jefferson County for which the county is responsible. Eight hundred of those miles are in need of repair.

The goal is to repair 110 miles of road this year.

“It’s the sad state that the county had let itself get into up until we were able to go through the bankruptcy process,” Commission President Jimmie Stephens said. “We’ve just now done that. We’ve bought new equipment and have people engaged to get the work done. You see litter being picked up now, you see roads being paved, bridges being built. The work of the county is finally being brought to fruition.”

Stephens added on his Facebook page that the county had added six litter crews and new mowing equipment, which he said would allow the county to mow three to four times a year.

Said Markert: “When you don’t maintain a road, it doesn’t show up for several years, then all of a sudden, boom, it starts falling apart. That’s what we’re going to try to be doing the next five years, trying to catch up.”

The roads and transportation director said having a plan is key to achieving success in citizen satisfaction.

“It keeps everyone informed of what we’re doing,” he said. “It helps us to be accountable so we know what we say we’re going to do. We try to do what we say we’ll do. If we don’t have a plan, we don’t go anywhere, or we may go somewhere but it’s the wrong place.”

Stephens and Markert agreed that Morgan Road in southwest Jefferson County is one of the tougher challenges as it is one of the most traveled roads in Jefferson County.

“There’s more traffic (there) than on the Beach Express that’s coming out of Orange Beach and it’s a four-lane highway,” the commission president said. “It’s in immediate need of repair. It’s scheduled to begin actual construction in December of this year.”

“We’ve bought new paving equipment,” Stephens continued. “We’ve bought new dump trucks. We have what we need now to get the job done. I’m excited about the future of Jefferson County and our ability to improve the quality of life for our citizens.”