"We've toured Eufaula and looked at some of the issues that they have here, and we've listened to all sides," said Bentley.
The Save North Eufaula Avenue group has worked to bring the governor to Eufaula since meeting with him two months ago, and those efforts paid off today, as Bentley toured the city for the first time as governor.
"We're going to be very respectful to this city. We understand the history, we understand the historical part of that highway. And so, we're going to look at that, and we're not going to do anything that would destroy the history of Eufaula," Bentley said.
But on the other hand, he took a middle of the road stance on the historic road issue.
"If we can improve things, obviously, we're going to,” said Bentley. “But I like to listen to all sides, listen to everyone, and then at some point, we have to make a decision on what we're going to do."
Alabama Department of Transportation representatives say making North Eufaula Avenue a four-lane road would eliminate traffic buildup. Opponents say a four-lane would decrease property values, create safety concerns for pedestrians, and cut into the city's main source of revenue: tourism.
"I think the governor realizes that North Eufaula Avenue is a signature street, a street scape for the City of Eufaula, and we made an impression on him that tourism is big in Eufaula, with the economic impact of people coming in,” said Alabama Senator Billy Beasley.
"There were some individuals that had the opportunity to talk with him today outside this meeting, and they also felt good with the comments that he made, saying that he did not want to do anything that would compromise the special character of historic Eufaula," said Douglas Purcell, one of the founders and a current member of the Eufaula-Randolph Neighborhood Association.
After the luncheon, Governor Bentley headed to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a different road project, the Foley Express, which will connect a final stretch of road on Interstate 10 all the way to Orange Beach.
Community leaders say ALDOT is expected to hold a public hearing after they complete their own studies, and they say state officials could make a decision by the end of the summer.
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