Although Gov. Kay Ivey has not commented publicly on Montgomery County Circuit Judge Jimmy Pool's scathing rebuke of Alabama Department of Transportation director John Cooper for his and his agency's handling of a bridge construction project in South Baldwin County, she did respond to Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth's multiple overtures to widen Interstate 65, which is Alabama major north-south thoroughfare.
Ivey responded in a statement on Wednesday to AL.com's John Sharp.
"Who doesn't want to widen 65?" Ivey said to AL.com. "The truth is, there are transportation infrastructure needs all over this state. Yes, we are addressing them quicker than ever, primarily because I championed the Rebuild Alabama Act, which by the way, has already led to needed 65 and other instate improvements. So, yes, I agree that we should widen 65, but I operate in the bounds of reality, and I recognize needs in all parts of the state, including the county roads and city streets that Alabama citizens use everyday to get to work, to school and to the grocery store."
Later in the day, Ainsworth reiterated his position during an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5.
"I think, certainly, it's our top infrastructure project in the state," Ainsworth said. "I think it needs to be done. I think it's going to take a plan to get it done. It's not something we can do overnight. You're probably looking at a 10-year plan to where you start on the state line, and you go down to the coast, and wherever you start in between that, I don't know. I think we've got to start, and I think the way you do that is you get a study, you find out what areas are most congested, and you work out from there, right?"
"It's just actually coming up with a plan using common sense," he continued. "Sometimes those are things DOT doesn't use when they should. So, I think for us — what we did is we passed a resolution in the Senate that Senator [Garlan] Gudger carried that says, 'Hey, we want to have a plan for the state of Alabama on how to do this. And you know, it might be that you can't go in bridges and different things. Maybe don't do around the bridges. You know, there are all kinds of different ways but not having a plan isn't an option."
Cooper's future as ALDOT director remains uncertain, and many speculated a change in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Ivey's marquee highway project, the $800 million West Alabama Corridor, which would link existing four-laned routes U.S. Highway 43 in Thomasville and Alabama State Highway 69 near Moundville to complete the north-south route link Mobile and Tuscaloosa continues to be in the works.
Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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