CULLMAN, AL (WBRC) - You can call it an early Christmas present for the city of Cullman.
A three and a half-mile stretch of Highway 157 which is usually snowed under with traffic in the mornings and evenings is about to get a much needed gift.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving the city $14 million to help widen the busy road to four lanes. We’re told traffic has increased to over 15,000 cars per day on Highway 157.
"Once we found out how the grant was structured this year, we actually changed our mind on what grant we were going to apply for. We went from a big park project to saying that it fit 157 which has been needed to be done for several years,” Mayor Woody Jacobs with the city of Cullman said.
Right-of-way work was done years ago in anticipation that one day this widening project would happen and two bridges are already in place from a previous ALDOT project that ran out of money.
Mayor Jacobs says that work made this DOT grant possible. This project will also help ease response times for first responders for the thousands of patients transported to Cullman Regional every year.
"News that that’s going to be expanded is going to be great for our guys. We’re going to be really excited about that. It’s going to make for better response times and better service for the community,” James Curtis, Director of Cullman EMS said.
Cullman economic development leaders believe the traffic bottleneck is one of the main reasons why that section of 157 has struggled to grow.
"I think that has significantly restricted the growth out there. I think you’ll see retail growth, industrial growth commercial. I think it will explode,” Dale Greer, Director of Cullman’s Economic Development Agency said.
"The reason we're so excited it opens up a corridor all the way over to Arab. We had Mayor Joslin come this morning and it opens that whole corridor up access to I-65. Alabama has a lot of car stuff right now. They need fast access to the corridors,” Jacobs said.
The Highway 157 project could cost $28 million. Mayor Jacobs wants to thank Senator Richard Shelby, Senator Doug Jones and Congressman Robert Aderholt for help in securing the grant.