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A huge project in Lauderdale County just got a big boost from the feds.
An almost $15 million grant will be used to expand Highway 72, known as Florence Boulevard, from Indian Springs down close to Smokin' on the Boulevard. Crews will make it three lanes in both directions and add turning lanes and gutters.
The grant came from the efforts of Senator Richard Shelby. The grant is called the DOT Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant Program, which focuses on economic development and infrastructure upgrades, said Shelby's office in a press release.
“DOT’s decision to award Lauderdale County with $14.9 million in funding is a testament to the economic development taking place in the Florence area,” said Senator Shelby. “This BUILD grant will allow for highway improvements that will make the area more attractive to tourists, residents, and businesses. I look forward to continuing efforts with DOT and my colleagues to ensure our local infrastructure supports our state’s economic growth and transportation needs.”
The expansion of the highway is needed, but it's going hand in hand with the proposed agricultural center, too.
"That's a congested area as you know now, but you add the event center and workforce center, and we have to have it and that had to be calculated in as a part of this project somewhere," said Lauderdale County Commissioner Roger Garner.
Garner said he was excited to hear from Senator Richard Shelby's office about the grant to expand Highway 72.
"This is huge that we could obtain this grant from the federal government," said Garner.
The highway expansion will add needed infrastructure to support the 170-acre, $45 million agricultural center. Trees are already being cleared for that project, which is expected to bring in millions of dollars a year. It will include an arena for concerts and horse shows, along with shopping and hotels.
To accommodate future traffic, Highway 72 will become six lanes. People who drive it every day say the expansion is needed.
"Love it. Yeah, that would be great. I think it will help with congestion and it will be awesome," said Corbett Kessler.
The exact plans for expanding this highway have not been released yet, so it's unclear when expansion could start but the agricultural center is supposed to be built by October 2021.