• 61°

Governor announces Hwy. 43 project to start this year, local leaders react

After decades of discussions, Gov. Kay Ivey, in her state-of-the-state address, promised the four-lane project forHwy. 43 that runs from Thomasville to Tuscaloosa, will soon begin.

“Tonight, I’m proud to announce we are moving forward with a project that other governors have talked about but, until

now, no one has been able to do,” Ivey said.“Later this year, we’re going to turn the shovel on a long-discussed four-lane of Hwy. 43 from Thomasville to Tuscaloosa.”

Ivey said this project will provide interstate connectivity and economic development opportunities for many rural counties in Alabama’s Black Belt between the cities of Mobile and Tuscaloosa.

Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins called the four-lane project “an absolute game-changer.”

“This is an absolute game-changer for Demopolis,” he said. “This is great for Demopolis to be at the junction of an

north-south and east-west corridor.”

Collins said that he feels like everyone gives credit to the governor, but he has a feeling she is really making this happen.

Collins said he first became involved in discussions about this 25-30 years ago, when former Probate Judge Cindy Neilson, who has been a huge proponent of the four-lane, took him to a meeting.

“There have been some people who have bull-dogging for all these years,” he said. “We are excited as we can be. I can’t wait to see the absolute final route and see it to come to fruition.”

Neilson said she thought the announcement was definitely good news.

“Mayor Austin Caldwell and all the mayors and I would go to Montgomery every opportunity we had to talk to the legislators and whatever governor was in office to push them to go ahead with the four-lane.”

In the early 2000s, when Neilson was the probate judge, she said she heard the hearing to abate the property for the bypass around Linden.

“It’s been sitting there ready,” she said. “I was thrilled to hear the announcement.”

Jo Ellen Martin, executive director of theMarengo County Economic Development Authority, was also pleased with the forward movement on the project.

“Four-laning Hwy. 43 is a very sound transportation investment, which will reduce the costs of moving people and goods, in turn,

increasing economic prosperity; roughly this can be assessed by the output of goods/services per dollar of public and private investment,” she said. “The four-laning reduces manufacturing and distribution costs in the large domestic market, which makes U.S. products competitive in world markets, which raises employment opportunities by making us a reduced-cost economy and allows our citizens to secure more with their wages.”

ALDOT spokesperson Tony Harris said the most accurate way to describe the project is a four-lane North-South

corridor from Thomasville to Tuscaloosa. It will follow the 43 corridor as much as possible.

“The governor has instructed ALDOT to begin planning for a four-lane North-South corridor through West Alabama, from Thomasville to Tuscaloosa. U.S. Highway 43 is the major corridor between those two cities, and ALDOT will follow existing alignments to the maximum extent possible. Our corridor study is just getting underway, so the exact alignment, cost estimate and time-line have not been determined,” he said. “Hopefully, those details will be more refined by this fall. ALDOT is considering a concept that would help accelerate construction by selecting a team of engineering consultants and contractors to work cooperatively to begin construction while designing additional phases at the same time. This concept, known as Design-Build, has been used effectively by other states for road and bridge construction, and in the private sector. The state will likely fund construction with a bond issue to be repaid by ALDOT’s share of future annual appropriations from the Rebuild Alabama Act passed by the Legislature in 2019. The Rebuild Alabama Act was the first increase in state revenues for road projects since 1992.”