Maybe Santa will bring I-759 extension

Published 10:08 pm Thursday, December 10, 2015

By Craig Ford
Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.

We are just a few weeks away from Christmas, and children across the state are heading to the mall or shopping center to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want.

I haven’t sat on Santa’s lap since I was a kid, but at this point Santa may be our best hope for finally getting the I-759 extension.

Every elected official in Etowah County has said for years that the I-759 extension is critical. Ask anyone driving down East Meighan Boulevard and they will tell you just how bad things have gotten.

It isn’t just a matter of opinion. Brian Davis, chief of the engineering division at the Alabama Department of Transportation, presented the results of a study that provides hard data proving the extension is needed.

The problem is undeniable, and everyone agrees that something must be done. The problem is paying for it.

In many ways, projects like these pay for themselves. Relieving traffic and improving our roadways will benefit existing business and help draw in new business. The extension also means new jobs for the workers who will do the work, and new business for the suppliers who provide the materials needed for construction.

But we still have to have money to get started, and that money will have to come from local, state and federal support.

There’s no question that our local and state leaders are committed to the extension. We have all publicly made a stand for the extension. The problem comes from our U.S. congressman.

Congressman Aderholt has been our representative in Washington for 20 years, and Etowah County is the largest in his district. He also serves on the House Appropriations Committee. He has experience, seniority and literally sits on the committee that decides how our federal tax dollars are spent.

But with all that experience and powerful position, Congressman Aderholt has failed to bring home any money for the I-759 extension. In fact, he won’t even try.

When the Gadsden Times asked Congressman Aderholt about the I-759 extension, he responded, “The state Department of Transportation has got to make this a priority. And it’s the governor and the state Legislature (that) has got to put pressure on the state Department of Transportation to move on this project.”

Never mind that the state legislature has to balance the budget every year, or that his party controls Congress and has run the national debt up to an all-time high.

The only help Congressman Aderholt has offered was federal approval if the state provided the funding.

Not one cent committed, even though he sits on the committee that decides how our federal tax dollars are spent.