Governor Kay Ivey remains fully committed to the proposed West Alabama Corridor project, with a price tag of a billion dollars that is growing by the day.

However, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) may have to borrow $1 billion from future gas tax revenue for the project's financing.

Such a move could have long-term implications for the state's transportation needs, including widening Interstate 65.

During his speech on Friday, Trump pledged to widen I-65 to six lanes from Huntsville to Mobile if he's re-elected president in 2024.

"One of the first things that I will do to help the great people of Alabama is to approve a six-lane I-65 from Huntsville to Mobile," Trump said. "I heard some of your great congressmen, who I introduced — every one of your congressmen have endorsed me. It's such a great honor."

"But I said, what can I do for this great state? 'You can make a six-laner,'" he declared. "Does everyone agree that's a big deal? OK, we'll do that first day."

According to State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine), Gov. Kay Ivey may need to adjust her transportation project priorities after former President Donald Trump pledged to widen Interstate 65 in a recent speech in Montgomery.

Elliott said in an interview with 1819 News on Tuesday he was concerned about the state's ability to come up with matching state funds for such a large project due to future state borrowing and spending on transportation projects in other parts of the state.

Elliott also questioned an ALDOT official at a recent Joint Transportation Committee meeting about how much the state would eventually borrow to pay for the West Alabama Corridor.

"My concern during Joint Transportation was: Hey, are we spending and tying up a bunch of state-only money for a project with dubious efficacy, if you will, OK, in West Alabama? When I sat in the audience the other night and listened to President Trump talk about [I-65] being high on his priority list, I got very concerned," Elliott said. "That concern was you have a minimum of an 80/20 match with 20% coming from the state minimum. I thought, gosh, the size and scope of an I-65 project if Governor Ivey and her administration have essentially maxed out the credit card on other projects, specifically on something like West Alabama Corridor, which we think is going to be well above $1 billion if not $1.3 billion. How do you come up with that match? What a travesty it would be to have the lieutenant governor negotiate something like that with President Trump, and we end up in a spot where we couldn't take him up on the offer."

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth recently said he supported prioritizing expanding I-65 before starting "an entirely new project like the West Alabama Corridor, which will cost roughly $1 billion before completion and have a fraction of the travelers."

"We may very well be in a position whether it's Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth subsequent to that or the very end of Governor Ivey's term is unable to provide the match because you spent it all somewhere else," Elliott said. "Oh, by the way, you spent all the future revenue or at least half of the future revenue too. That would be really scary. That's one of the reasons I think the Governor really needs to re-think transportation priorities as it pertains to the West Alabama Corridor. Sure, it would be nice. I'm sure it would look nice. I'm sure there are some folks that would like it. There are all kinds of empirical arguments that could be made [like the] traffic count [on] 65 versus 43 all day long. At the end of the day, if we leave billions and billions and billions of dollars on the table because we can't scrape together our share because we spent it somewhere else, that would be really embarrassing." 

It's expected Ainsworth will run for governor in 2026 after Ivey completes her final term.

"We've never been closer to doing it than we are right now with a lieutenant governor who is probably going to be the governor committed to it and with a person who used to be the president of the United States and probably stands, if recent polling is true, a 50/50 chance of being the President of the United States again," Elliott said. "We've never been closer to actually getting this done, and I'd hate to see that squandered because of one decision in West Alabama that maxed out the state's credit card on future gas tax revenue. I just hope the administration looks at what the president said the other night and says, 'Gosh, maybe we need to re-think this.' If we've got the opportunity for billions and billions and billions of dollars to come to Alabama to do something like that, and we don't have the ability to match it, that's just unforgivable."

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