Time for I-85 expansion long overdue

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 17, 2008

The headlines made an interesting juxtaposition: &8220;Shelby discusses I-85 expansion&8221; just above &8220;Marengo County EDA looks to future.&8221;

The headlines appeared in Tuesday&8217;s edition and the EDA news is exciting. We&8217;re looking forward to great work by the Marengo County Economic Development Authority, but economic development takes time &8212; and patience.

But the other headline had use thinking about a little bit of history. That headline would have seemed at home in an edition of this newspaper several years ago.

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State leaders have been talking about the I-85 expansion for several years now. Fortunately, as we reported on Tuesday, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) seems to keep pushing the effort, but he needs some help,

Area residents &8212; yes, this means you &8212; needs to make this an issue that&8217;s brought up constantly. It should be discussed at every possible opportunity.

Few things could spark the economy of the Blackbelt long-term as much as having an Interstate connector running through the heart of the area.

With a few exceptions, this area of the state is hurting. It&8217;s been without significant economic growth for quite some time.

Shelby noted that he&8217;s managed to secure approximately one-tenth the total amount of funds needed for the project, but coming by dollars is difficult, even for a long-time Washington wizard like Shelby.

But the real key, the real driving force behind getting something done about this isn&8217;t going to be in getting Shelby to keep plugging away at federal transportation dollars. The key will be getting all of the counties in the Blackbelt to come together and work as one unit.

Our area&8217;s biggest strength lies not in our differences, but in our similarities.

Just look at the headlines for proof. &8220;Marengo County EDA looks to the future&8221; can easily be turned into the Blackbelt looks to the future and it looks bright.