By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, January 5, Alabama state Auditor elect Jim Zeigler (R) announced that he filed a request for a last-minute motion to block the controversial “four-laning” of an historic Avenue in Eufaula.
State Auditor Zeigler wrote on Facebook, “Workers are expected to start Tuesday paving a six-foot strip the entire avenue of historic Eufaula Pilgrimage, made famous in the movie “Sweet Home Alabama.” But it may be a race between the bulldozers and the bulldog, as State Auditor-elect Jim Zeigler filed for a temporary restraining order.”
A number of large home were built on Eufaula’s historic First Avenue, beginning well before the Civil War. Some of the homes were built a human lifetime before the first automobile appeared. Tourists from across the South and beyond come to see the historic homes and enjoy the fishing and wildlife at the nearby lakes, state park, and national wildlife refuge.
Over the decades, First Avenue has become part of U.S. Highway 431. Throughout the 20th Century this was not a problem, as Highway 431 was two lanes. However over the decades, the Alabama Department of Transportation has worked on “four-laning” segments of the highway that serves rural east Alabama, but is primarily used a conduit for tourists going to Panama City and Destin in Florida.
First Avenue in Eufaula with it’s stately Antebellum and Victorian homes was however bypassed by the most recent road improvements remaining relatively unchanged for decades. ALDOT officials has announced that that is changing and they must widen that one mile of road because it slows motorists. Homeowners argue that widening the road will cost the scenic stretch dozens of trees and will hurt the aesthetics of the neighborhood. They argue that the state could simply build a bypass around the center of Eufaula. ALDOT argues that that would cost them too much money and that turning First Avenue into a four lane highway is a much cheaper option for the State of Alabama.
Residents have organized and put up “Save First Avenue” signs; but have been ignored by State officials. Residents wrote recently, “There is absolutely no need to destroy this beautiful street, the trees, and historic home’s front lawns to widen three blocks. The entire three blocks is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Eufaula has the largest historic district in Southeast Alabama – over 700 homes and buildings), and North Eufaula Ave is our main street.”
Jim Zeigler is an attorney and former Public Service Commissioner. In 2014, Zeigler was elected auditor of the state of Alabama and will be sworn in this month.