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Toll road: A boost for Pike?

The proposed I-10 connector could prove to be an economic boost for Pike County, said a project coordinator and county commissioner.

Steven Shaw, president of Focus 2000, said the proposed toll road could bring both revenues and jobs to Pike County.

And Pike County Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan agreed.

“Everything points to the fact that if we don’t do this, we’re going to get left out and bypassed, and then who’s going to get it?” Sullivan said. “The economic impact it will have will be far greater than what we have right now.”

Commissioners on Tuesday gave Shaw the OK to conduct a local feasibility study on the impact of the proposed toll road, which would extend from Montgomery to Interestate 10 at the Florida State line.

Montgomery, Houston, Dale and Geneva counties already have jumped on board for the project.

Shaw said the original plan called for an I-10 connector from Dothan to the Florida state line. That was 25 years ago, though, and since then the proposed road has been extended to Montgomery.

Shaw said the road would be funded under a non-profit partnership of the counties, and the debt would be paid back through the toll costs. But, the construction would come at no cost to any of the five counties in the partnership.

Once the construction costs are repaid, each county would own its section of the toll road and, in theory, would benefit from the tolls.

The study should also generate suggestions for the best possible location of the road, and results of the study will be presented to the commission before any action can be taken.

Although some people worry a connector road might divert traffic from U.S. 231, Sullivan and Shaw both said they think the benefits would outweigh any negative impacts. “I think you would take some foot traffic off and free up some (vehicle) traffic,” Sullivan said. “I do not think we will lose revenues by this thing.”

Shaw, like Sullivan, said U.S. 231 may be maxed out with traffic flow in the coming years, so the connector road actually may sustain U.S. 231.

In addition, he said the road would support more local industries and could bring more people to the county overall.

“It could be as many as 30,000 people, so when that happens there will be job creation, and with that, the whole area begins to grow,” Shaw said.

Shaw said it may be late 2009 or early 2010 before the feasibility study is complete. And once that is done, the counties would have to approve the project before any construction could begin.

The approximately $1.5 billion project will bring employment opportunities for local construction contractors, as well, Shaw said.