Ivey Ends West Alabama Corridor Dispute
The dispute over spending millions of dollars to construct the West Alabama Corridor appears to be over. Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a contract allocating an initial $75 million for that and 12 other transportation projects across the state.
The project will completely four lane U.S. Highway 43 down the west side of the state between Tuscaloosa and Mobile. Mississippi did something similar years ago with U.S. Highway 45 down the east side of their state.
Prompted by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, the massive road construct received hot debate and was subjected to delaying tactics in the legislature's Contract Review Committee. Ainsworth and some committee members favor spending the money on upgrades to the north/south Interstate 65 that runs down the middle of Alabama. But they were only able to stall the West Alabama project for 45 days. That timeline ended Sunday, leading the governor to sign the West Alabama Corridor contract yesterday.
At contention is the cost of the construction and how it will be paid for. The governor is funding it through "Rebuild Alabama", the legislatively passed and voter approved initiative that finances road projects utilizing gasoline tax revenue. But it would not include any federal matching dollars.
Many in the opposition are not against the project as much as they are against the way it is funded. The projects final cost is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and they believe the lack of federal money will create an economic hardship.
But West Alabama lawmakers like Rep. Chris England (D-70) from Tuscaloosa have long voiced approval. England and others point out the project will boost the economy of the most underserved and poorest regions of the state - the Black Belt.
Proponents believe the corridor will not just bring motorists stopping to eat and buy gas, but it could help current West Alabama companies and lure new businesses, industry and jobs; the things in short supply down the westside of the state.
State Rep. Ron Bolton (R-61) told Tuscaloosa Thread, "I know I-65 is the low hanging fruit, but we need to harvest all the fruit.
"Part of my district is in the Black Belt and I want to see us benefit economically from a main highway project."
Bolton also believes the corridor will allow Mercedes to ship their vehicles quicker and more economically by using the Alabama State Docks in Mobile rather than the Port of Savannah in Georgia.
Last month Gov. Ivey told reporters why the corridor project is important to her, “The bottom line is, I’m the governor of all the people.”
“Including those in the Black Belt and in West Alabama,” Ivey added. “That area is so important to our state and does not have four-lane access to the interstate. It’s the right thing to do."