In her 2021 State of the State address, Gov. Kay Ivey first announced a proposal to complete the four-laning of U.S. Highway 43 from Mobile to Tuscaloosa.
The route, a north-south corridor that spans the entire western portion of the state, had long been contemplated as a four-lane route through Alabama's Black Belt region.
Currently, the road is four-laned from Chickasaw, just north of Mobile, to Thomasville in northern Clarke County.
Last November, Ivey participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking near Linden in Marengo County.
The project, which would serve an entirely rural area of Alabama, has drawn grumblings from some lawmakers who have supported the governor's infrastructure initiatives in the past and insist this project does not fulfill a need that exists.
Another critic of the project is Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tim James.
James criticized the project during an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," claiming the $700 million price tag would not have a federal matching component and therefore was ill-advised.
"Let me tell you how absolutely awful the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is being run and how they're wasting money," James said. "And we're talking big bucks. You may have heard of the big new road they want to build north and south on U.S. 43 crossing up through west Alabama ... It goes from Mobile all the way to Tuscaloosa."
James said that of course supporters say it's for economic development in west Alabama and that sounds good, but what they don't tell the public is they cannot get federal government money for the project, so the state must pay 100% of the cost. He said that would use up all the state's gas tax revenue for a year.
"But the worst part about it is this: The way it works - and I'm sure you know this - in roads, you get federal matching dollars," he added. "So, if there's an [improvement] project, the state puts in 20%, and the feds match it with 80%. Well, if you put in $700 million in state dollars, you forgo $2.1 billion in federal matching dollars. What kind of dummy would do that? That's exactly what the state director of transportation is proposing."
James reminded listeners the ALDOT director, currently John Cooper, serves at the pleasure of the governor. However, he said the ultimate responsibility falls on Ivey.
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