Selma to benefit from $15M

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 9, 2004

When President George W. Bush signed the Consolidated Appropriations Bill into law, there were no ticker-tape parades in Alabama’s Black Belt.

However, if the money earmarked for the poverty-stricken region is used as designated, then the bill could change the Black Belt’s fortunes.

“I’m very excited,” Selma mayor James Perkins Jr. said.

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The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2005 is a spending bill that includes the remaining appropriations bills, which provide funding for: Transportation, Treasury, and General Government; Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, State; Energy and Water; Foreign Operations; Interior; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education; Legislative Branch; and Veterans Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Affairs. Included in this legislation is millions of dollars for projects in the Montgomery area.

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby was instrumental in getting the project done.

“I am pleased to announce funding for many important projects in the Montgomery area and across Alabama,” Shelby said. “This legislation provides necessary resources for a wide-range of initiatives to improve the quality of life for our citizens and increase economic development opportunities across the state.”

The project that may have the most direct impact on Selma and the Black Belt is $15 million for the Highway 80 East-West Corridor.

Designed to connect the region to Mississippi with four-lane highway, the project would connect Cuba to Uniontown, eventually all the way to Montgomery.

“I am pleased that this legislation includes critical funding to begin planning, engineering and design of the East-West highway corridor stretching from Montgomery to Cuba, Ala. The creation of a transportation route in this area will bring significant economic development and opportunities to a region of the state that has not yet reached its potential.”

“Over the past several years we’ve been working on trying to get some real attention placed to the Highway 80 East-West corridor,” Perkins said. “This represents a real commitment from our federal delegation, led by Senator Shelby, to solve that problem for the Black Belt.”

Perkins added that because 80 percent of industrial development comes within five miles of a major highway, the project could mean major changes in the Black Belt’s employment problems.

“This is a giant step forward I’m just hoping we’ll stay focused,” Perkins said.

Perkins emphasized the need for the money to go to one common main goal instead of being split into smaller side projects.

“I’m just delighted that we’re all of one accord (now),” Perkins said.

He explained that the multiple phase project would complete four lane between Cuba and Uniontown, then possibly open an I-85 corridor from Hope Hull to Selma.

That, he said, would free Highway 80 for tourism traffic and leave the corridor for commercial traffic and eliminate the two from getting in each other’s way.

“This going to have a major economic impact,” Perkins said. “This is something people started working on before this country put a man on the moon.”

The bill also confirmed the $500,000 appropriation for Selma’s YMCA.

Shelby said, “These funds will be used by the Selma YMCA to construct a new family facility for the citizens of Selma. The Selma YMCA is working to create a recreation outlet specifically to fit the needs of children and families in the Selma and Dallas County Area. Beyond the recreational benefits, the new facility will allow the YMCA to expand its service to the community with a teen center, computer lab, community meeting room and a child development center.”