MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey recently broke her silence regarding the West Alabama Corridor project, saying it was a "vital" project that will continue as planned despite it currently being placed on hold by the Contract Review Committee.
Ivey discussed the project at Tuesday's lunch meeting with the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery. She explained how the project will provide interstate connectivity to rural counties lacking a four-lane-to-interstate highway, ultimately creating a four-lane connection between Mobile and Tuscaloosa. The project is being paid for with Rebuild Alabama Act funds, a state gas tax increase passed in 2019 by the legislature.
"The bottom line is I'm the governor of all the people including those in the Black Belt and in West Alabama," Ivey told reporters.
"That area…does not have four-lane access to the interstate so it's the right thing to do, and so we're going to press on in expanding U.S. Highway 43 to a four-lane from Mobile to Tuscaloosa," Ivey said.
Ivey described the West Alabama Corridor as a "vital road project to open up economic development" while "improving the lives of thousands of Black Belt residents."
Various West Alabama Mayors spoke at a press conference in Thomasville on September 5, explaining the benefits of the West Alabama Corridor to the surrounding region. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and several state legislators have opposed the project due to estimated cost increases and the lack of federal funding.
"It was evident during my visit that the Highway 43 project, known as the West Alabama Corridor, has merit and needs to be completed when the proper funding model is in place," Ainsworth said in a statement on September 7. "My concern is committing $1.3 billion or more of purely state dollars to the project with absolutely zero federal matching funds being provided. Using state dollars alone and creating a 20-year bond debt cannot be justified from a fiscal, policy, or even common sense perspective. Committing such a large amount of state dollars also takes away funding that could be used for other needed projects across the state, including the widening of I-65."
The dispute over the project recently resulted in the Contract Review Committee suspending 14 ALDOT contacts with over $100 million. The projects are still on hold.
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) placed a hold of up to 45 days on a $75 million ALDOT design-build contract with Brasfield & Gorrie for the West Alabama Corridor project at a recent Contract Review Committee meeting.
In response to Elliott's hold on the West Alabama Corridor contract, State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) put an up to 45-day hold on the remaining 13 ALDOT contracts on the committee's agenda at the meeting because the West Alabama Corridor is "vital to my district." Legislators on the Contract Review Committee can't stop a contract from ultimately moving forward, but they can block it from proceeding for up to 45 days. The hold can be released at any time by the legislator who placed it.
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