ALDOT proposal threatens to demolish local business to make way for project

FORT PAYNE, Ala. (WHNT) — A proposed Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) project would add an emergency truck stop ramp along AL-35 in Fort Payne.

The problem is, Marisa Foster’s business could be demolished in order to make room for the project. She says she has trained several athletes inside the old Dekalb County High School gym for nearly seven years.

During a public meeting last month, Foster said learned she might lose her life’s work to make way for the emergency truck stop ramp.

“I looked down and you couldn’t even see the gym. It was just like sand over it and then it had Foster’s training in like red writing,” Foster said. “Even though yes, it’s my name, it’s not me…it’s everybody. It’s the whole family,” as she thought about how the plan would affect the bigger picture.

According to ALDOT, the project is intended to address brake failures for semi trucks along State Road 35.

Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine, however, doesn’t believe the proposed project is the best solution and would rather see a multifaceted solution to the city’s transportation infrastructure.

“I told them, I said ‘I don’t feel like that’s a fix for our problem,’” Baine explained. “Take that money that they were going to spend on the trucker rester bed and put it to a feasibility study to actually solve the problem, and it would solve more problems than just that one,” he said.

Foster’s has trained more than a dozen student-athletes who have gone on to continue their playing careers at the collegiate level.

Parents believe the impact will last a lifetime.

“Life’s going to throw you challenges, said Lisa Powell, a parent whose children have trained at Foster’s. “How you handle those challenges is going to determine how your life turns out. When the kids get a problem here, they have to learn to solve those things. [Foster] teaches them ways to solve those problems.”

Whether or not the building will be demolished as part of the project is yet to be determined, as officials with ALDOT say the plan has not been finalized.

Meanwhile, the Foster Family will continue to have an impact on student-athletes in and around Dekalb County.

“I’m going to keep doing what I do like it’s what I was meant to do,” Foster said. “And so, no matter where I am, I’m going to keep doing that…we’re going to keep doing that. Family is family, you know, and that’s it. This is more than a gym.”

ALDOT tells News 19 that there are a number of steps in the process that would need to happen before the project begins, including a public comment period that ends April 28. Officials add that there is a chance the proposed project could change or be scrapped altogether.

If the project is approved, the earliest construction could begin would be in the spring or summer of 2024.


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