Police: Shoals motorists should use caution with O’Neal refurbishment underway

A refurbishment project for O’Neal Bridge began today, and traffic was cut to one lane in each direction. O’Neal will get a fresh paint job and new lighting. The structure’s concrete will be repaired and a new drainage system added.

by Managing Editor Kali Daniel

Students, faculty and staff planning to cross the Tennessee River to begin their spring break festivities may need to consider an alternative route.

As expected, refurbishing of O’Neal bridge began today. The two-year process begins with work requiring O’Neal to be cut down to two lanes —one in each direction.

Florence Police Deputy Chief Tim Shaddix, head of traffic division, said he encourages drivers to use Patton Island Bridge to cross the river.

“It will increase traffic on Veterans Drive and Helton Drive, but it will be the quickest route,” Shaddix said.

In January Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler said he believes the bridge will be a “gridlock.”

“Pretty much unless somebody is coming from Sheffield, it’ll still be quicker to make the trip around to Singing River,” he said. “Any time one lane of the bridge is closed for a wreck or something like that, traffic typically backs up to either the first red light on Court Street or the one at Jackson Highway.”

Drivers wishing to brave the two-lane bridge should be aware the size of the lanes will eventually narrow, Shaddix said.

“At some point they will narrow down the lane width to 10 feet where it’s normally 11.5 to 12 feet.”

O’Neal will get a fresh paint job and new lighting. The structure’s concrete will be repaired and a new drainage system added.

Shaddix said the construction company has given an estimated time of six weeks, working every day during daylight, weather permitting.