Governor Bentley breaks ground on Veterans Memorial Parkway

The long-awaited Anniston Eastern Bypass will be open for travel in just a year and a half.

Governor Robert Bentley and Calhoun County leaders broke ground Thursday afternoon on the final phase of the road, a four mile stretch which will be called the Veterans Memorial Parkway.

This final portion will cost about $12-million, bringing the total cost to about $150-million.

"Building roads like this helps create jobs.{} Infrastructure is so important to creating jobs in the state," Governor Bentley said.

"One of the things that I wanted to do as governor is we need to complete roads that have already been started."

Construction on the seven-mile-long parkway started more than a decade ago.{} The project connects Interstate 20 to Alabama Highway 21 and U.S. Highway 431 north of Anniston.

The governor says this should help ongoing development of the former Fort McClellan property.

"This is a great part of the state and I think we're going to see a lot of progress here," he said.

"Fort McClellan is really a crown jewel there that we have in this area.{} We are already using it some but we certainly need to use it for industrial development."

The parkway should be complete and open by the summer of 2015.

Anniston mayor Vaughn Stewart said he remembers people talking about a bypass 30 years ago, when he moved back to Anniston in 1983.

Stewart said the project's completion will be the last phase of connectivity for Anniston as a gateway to Atlanta, Birmingham, and Chattanooga.{} He is already hyping the McClellan area to a variety of businesses by showing them the access the bypass will provide.

"Not only from an industrial manufacturing [standpoint], obviously that's going to be big for McClellan, but also it will create some retail development opportunities" Stewart said.

"I've already had developers up here on four-wheelers, just coming down these ramps, showing them where the ramps will be as far as new travelers on this."

Calhoun County Commission chairman Rudy Abbott said this project is on his and others' bucket lists.{} However, he said he understands why it has taken so long, compared to the construction of a county road.

"The rules that guide and direct these guys to do a major highway like this are completely different from the county.{} For example, they cannot pave in the winter time, any time below 40 degrees, but we can [on a county road]," Abbott said.

"It takes a long time.{} You have to move all the power poles, you have to build bridges, so it takes a while, 10, 12 years to build a road like this."

Abbott said it is a big happening for Anniston, and{}should bring a lot of money to Calhoun County.

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