No road stimulus yet for Dallas County

Published 11:28 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Selma and Dallas County have missed out on the first round of stimulus projects allocated by the Alabama Department of Transportation, but that has not stopped at least one project from taking another funding route.

The announcements made last month by the state did not include any municipalities or counties with the highest unemployment in the state — Wilcox with a 22.5 percent unemployment rate; Dallas and Chambers with 18.1 percent rate each and Lowndes with a 17.6 percent.

The 10 projects for which bids were awarded on April 10 included Shelby County, which with 6.3 percent has the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

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Alabama DOT spokesman Tony Harris said the first projects were those that were ready to begin work. But he said the first projects were also those that were the most urgent, such as repaving portions of Interstate 59 that has deteriorated in Etowah County, where the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.

The next round of bids for transportation is slated for May 29, the regular project awarding date. In March the state transportation department decided not to have additional bid award dates other than April 10, but to include projects under the stimulus program under the regular project bid award dates through July.

A list of projects up for bids on May 29 does not include the two under the stimulus plan slated for Dallas County.

The two projects listed by ALDOT fall under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus plan. The first project listed is to resurface and widen by 2 feet Alabama Highway 22 from Alabama Highway 5 to Alabama Highway 219. The total estimated cost of this project is $8.1 million, according to ALDOT.

The other project would see the resurfacing and widening by 2 feet on Alabama Highway 66, from Marengo County to Ala. 5 in Dallas County. The total estimated cost of this project is $1.63 million.

Valley Grande Mayor Tom Lee says a road-widening project that would extend the five-lane portion of Ala. 22 leading from Citizens Parkway in Selma through Valley Grande by 5.1 miles.

But the project is not part of the stimulus money. Instead, the Valley Grande project is under consideration for an upcoming federal transportation grant. U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, is handling this and several other projects in Dallas County, Lee said.

In April, Davis met with local officials to receive their wish lists. At that time, Davis warned local officials that money from an upcoming federal transportation bill would be limited.

The Valley Grande project is one of 10 projects that came out of the meeting. Its estimated cost is $26 million. At that time, Davis said he expects to receive about $30 million from the bill, which would be spread across the 7th Congressional District.

Lee said he has talked with Davis’ office many times in preparation for the submission to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“We’ve had contact with his office as recently as last Friday,” Lee said in a telephone interview Wednesday, “about accumulating information on it.”

Alex Goepfert, a spokesman for Davis, said, “Project requests for the upcoming federal transportation bill will be released in the next few days.”

Lee said the acquisition for right of way on the project is completed. The state has asked utility companies to prepare plans to relocate their lines, the Valley Grande mayor said.

Alisa Summerville, the office manager for Alabama Power in Selma, said her company already had preliminary plans in place for moving the power utilities for another project in the past unrelated to the widening of the road. The company will move forward as requested, she said.