Highway 31 improvements coming soon

During a regular week, Riverchase Galleria in Hoover draws thousands of visitors.{} Holiday traffic on Highway 31 in front of the Galleria can be maddening.

Improvements set to begin soon will help make Highway 31 easier to navigate during peak times.

If you're headed southbound on Highway 31, you may find yourself trapped in one of the right turn lanes, which makes you have to go into the Galleria. The plan, is to make that right hand lane a through lane all the way down to Highway 150 past the Galleria.

The other part of this plan is a complete repave of Highway 31 from I-459 to the Shelby County line.

"What Hoover wanted to do was take some turn lanes that were in front of the Galleria and link some of them together, and by doing that, it will actually create some auxiliary lanes down there to give a little congestion relief in front of the Galleria," explains ALDOT division engineer Brian Davis.Davis says the City of Hoover wants to kill two birds with one stone: repave Highway 31 and at the same time improve traffic flow to Riverchase Galleria.

"It made no sense to get out there and disrupt the public one time for the resurfacing, a whole separate time for the little widening project in front of the Galleria. It made sense to link them all together and hinder people one time," says Davis.Some work will be necessary to make these proposed improvements a reality. "Tearing out concrete islands, linking up turn lanes. Most of the work will be done at night, because it's a resurfacing project, most of it will be night work. There will be a little bit of work that will involve some cones left out there, and some drums left out there during the day, but the bulk of the work will be night work trying to stay away from the Galleria traffic."One business sure to feel the impact of the project is On Tap Sports Cafe.

Todd Beegle, owner of On Tap, says he's not too concerned about losing business during the construction period. "I think early on, when people start doing these projects to begin with, there's a little inconvenience," says Beegle.In fact, he says it's about time these improvements are made. "Long term it's going to be great, because there is so much traffic that comes up through here. Just getting an extra way to get through, it's going to clear out a lot of that congestion."Mayor Gary Ivey knows the Chapel Lane extension already has helped traffic flow into the Galleria.But, with more than 100,000 cars that travel Highway 31 everyday, repair work is much needed."With all the new revitalization of the Galleria, it's more important than ever for us. Our traffic has picked up down there. Obviously that makes traffic pick up on Highway 31. So, it's going to make it flow better for everybody," says Ivey.The widenening and repave project was originally scheduled for April. However, the project likely won't begin until early May. Davis says, "The goal is to get this done before we get into that next holiday season, beginning all the way at Thanksgiving and going all the way to Christmas to be out of there. And, have improvements made to relieve the congestion they've had there over the past holidays."