Lauderdale County officials recently received promising news about their efforts to expand a section of U.S. 72 to six lanes.

The 1.8-mile project just east of Florence would expand a section of the highway that decreases from six lanes to four lanes and then goes back to six lanes. The project would make that entire stretch six lanes.

County Commission Chairman Danny Pettus said commissioners recently agreed to put up $1 million toward the $23 million project. The state was going to put in $4 million, and officials are applying for a federal grant to pay the rest.

However, the Alabama Department of Transportation has agreed to pay the $1 million, Pettus said.

The county is expected to find out Nov. 12 whether it is awarded the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant, he said.

Pettus went to Washington, D.C., two weeks ago, where he met with Alabama congressmen, including Sen. Richard Shelby's staff, Sen. Doug Jones, Rep. Mo Brooks and Rep. Robert Aderholt.

They all agreed to write letters recommending the project.

Lauderdale County is part of Brooks' district. Aderholt's district does not include Lauderdale County, but includes Colbert County.

Pettus had taken photos of traffic backed up at a red light along that stretch during morning rush hour.

"I gave the photos to all four of them to show why we need the extra lanes," he said.

Pettus said the extra lanes also would be beneficial if the proposed agricultural center is built along U.S. 72.

County Engineer Eric Hill said 34,000 vehicles travel along that stretch daily.

"This is such a good project," Hill said. "It's needed and should help with congestion in that section. That's a tremendous volume."

He said having six lanes would help with the fluidity of traffic, since vehicles won't have to merge from three lanes to two.

"That will help with the traffic flow," Hill said. "It's going to be a big increase in safety."

He said the design work on the project essentially is completed, and would only need some tweaking. That would help with the progress of the project if it is approved.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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