Shelby announces funding for highway projects

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 2, 2005

WASHINGTON, D. C.-Projects that will have an enormous impact on the local economy were given another boost Friday when U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby announced they would be included in the authorization of $286.5 billion as part of the Highway Bill.

Shelby (R-AL) announced Friday conference committee approval of H.R. 3, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

This legislation authorizes $286.5 billion in funding for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, transit programs, and other purposes. Sen. Shelby was a member of the Conference Committee. The bill passed by a vote of 91 to 4 and will now head to the president’s desk.

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Shelby said the passage of the bill would go a long way toward creating jobs in rural areas of the South, including the Black Belt.

“I am pleased we were able to reach agreement on this important piece of legislation,” Shelby said. “I believe that reauthorizing the Highway Bill is essential to developing and improving infrastructure which leads to economic development and job creation.

This bill provides guidance and important funding for cities and states across the country to plan and construct important road, bridge, and highway safety projects in order to meet the needs of our growing communities.”

Shelby added the passage of the bill would open up the door for planning and improvements.

“Passage of the Highway Bill is significant as it provides Alabama with the tools to begin planning and construction of major road projects as well as maintain progress on ongoing projects,” Shelby said. “I am also pleased that we were able to include funding for a number of important regional projects as they will improve the state’s infrastructure on a large scale and have tremendous economic impact in the years to come.”

The projects included in this legislation will be disbursed to the State over the life of the bill.

One project included in the bill was the Interstate 85 Extension. The project, which has gotten a great deal of discussion lately, was allotted $100 million. The project, which is a part of a proposed East-West Corridor, would connect I-85 from Montgomery to I-20 at Cuba effectively connecting Montgomery to Meridian.

Shelby said the project had enormous potential to bring forth growth and economic stability to the area.

“I am pleased that this legislation includes critical funding for planning, engineering, design and construction of the East-West highway corridor stretching from Montgomery to Cuba,” Shelby said. “The extension of I-85 in this area will bring significant economic development and new opportunities to a region of the state that has not yet reached its potential.”

The project is still in its planning stages, but the allotment will help tremendously in getting things off the ground.

Another allotment of $40 million was made to the Delta Regional Transportation Development Program, which was also of interest to Black Belt residents.

The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) is a federal-state partnership serving a 240-county/parish area in an eight-state region. Led by a Federal Co-Chairman and the governors of each participating state, the DRA is designed to remedy severe and chronic economic distress by stimulating economic development and fostering partnerships that will have a positive impact on the region’s economy. Alabama’s Black Belt is just one of many areas in the state of Alabama that falls into the DAR’s coverage.

Shelby said all areas would benefit tremendously from the allotment of funding.

“These funds will help facilitate multi-state transportation planning and corridor development for this impoverished area of the country,” Shelby said. “The link between transportation infrastructure and economic development is unmistakable. Establishing a transportation program specifically for the Delta Region is an integral step towards promoting economic development, raising the standard of living, and improving quality of life in this traditionally impoverished region.”