A common refrain from members of the legislature is the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is a problematic agency to work with and function with little to no input from lawmakers.
Senate General Fund Budget chairman State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) shares those frustrations.
During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," Albritton voiced his support for getting U.S. Highway 43 four-laned between Thomasville and Tuscaloosa, a project deemed the West Alabama Corridor that is a priority for Gov. Kay Ivey.
However, he also named U.S. Highways 45, 84 and 98 as roadways that need improvement.
"DOT is going about it," he said. "I support the aspect that we've got to have the infrastructure bill. I'd love to see 43 four-laned. I'd like to see 45 four-laned. I'd like to see 98 four-laned. I'd like to see 84 four-laned. Every one of those that I have mentioned have four-lane portions but none of it in Southwest Alabama, except 43. Now 43 goes up to Thomasville. All we've got to do is take it up to Tuscaloosa. That's what we're working on. I'm supportive of those expansions of any way in any form. Now how they're going about it — you've got to talk to the DOT about that. I know there are issues that is going on but building and constructing any roadway, it seems, is difficult. Between EPA and DOT and the other alphabets, it just seems harder than it needs to be."
The Escambia County Republican lawmaker expressed some skepticism about Ivey's approach to financing the West Alabama Corridor project but also said he was not sure resources would be best used to widen Interstate 65, which is a project supported by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and many of Albritton's colleagues.
"I don't know that that is the right way to do it," Albritton replied. "But that seems to be the way that we're doing it. It is taking a burden on the state. I concur with that. The Governor has already made that decision. We've already put lots of money into that. That's the way it's going to go. Now, I know there's others that think we need to do the six-lane of I-65, and maybe that does need to be done. But putting more lanes in the same place without developing other infrastructure in the state — I think we've got to pay attention more to the state as a whole, I do."
Albritton, however, was very critical of ALDOT. He said he had his struggles with ALDOT and called on the beleaguered agency to have its priorities more in line with "what the state needs."
"[I] just think that we do have to get prioritization done, and that's the jobs of people that we have there," he added. "I just don't know that I agree completely with this. But we've got to find a way to do it. Gosh, Jeff, I don't know. I wish I had more input on some of this. But with the DOT, that is just difficult people to work with. I'm struggling with that on several, several fronts. And I think I'm not the only one. I think a lot of people struggle and are trying to find a way — I won't say 'control,' but trying to get DOT's prioritizations more reflective of what the state needs."
Jeff Poor is the editor in chief 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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