On Monday, a 45-day hold on a $75 million Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) design-build contract with Brasfield & Gorrie for the West Alabama Corridor project will end.
Despite the hold placed by State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine), the ultimate price tag on the route, which would complete a four-lane corridor between Mobile and Tuscaloosa, remains an unknown.
"We have no idea how much it is going to cost, and we have no idea what the budget number is for it," Elliott said during an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show." "The holds will expire on Monday. I do expect that the Governor will get to the office early that morning in order to execute this contract. That doesn't surprise me either."
Some anticipate a price for the project in excess of $1 billion, which could require the state to borrow against future gas tax income if there are no additional funding sources, including from the federal government. That could mean revenue generated by the increase of fuel taxes by the 2019 Rebuild Alabama Act is obligated for the project for the next decade and beyond.
According to Elliott, obstacles to securing federal funding include the lack of effort from the Ivey administration and its decision to forgo Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) permitting.
The Baldwin County Republican lawmaker warned that could impact the "long-term health and success" of the West Alabama Corridor project because future administrations beyond Gov. Kay Ivey's may not be willing to use those fuel tax dollars on that project.
"One thing I have told my colleagues in West Alabama almost to a person, the members that were assembled at that press conference yesterday was, 'Guys, no one is opposed to your project,'" Elliott continued. "As a matter of fact, I think everyone would like to see the West Alabama Corridor done. What folks have problems with is this administration is proposing spending probably a billion-and-a-half dollars in one place in all state funding. You have no federal funding for this project. The state Department of Transportation and this administration have not asked for a penny of federal funding. And most importantly, they have not permitted this project using FHWA permitting process, which means if it showed up in a dump truck, they couldn't use it on the project, and that is not smart to not leverage the state taxpayer money to get more federal money."
"And it is not smart for the long-term health and success for this project to not foresee that some members of the legislature and future administrations are cool to using all of this state money all in one spot and look at the opportunity costs around the state of not being able to do other projects," he added. "It will cause problems for the long-term health of this project if they continue without any federal funding, if they continue without seeking federal funding and continue without federal permitting."
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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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