• 55°

Brewton project on state's $3 billion ‘wish list' for Congress

By By MICHELE GERLACH – Publisher
Brewton and Escambia County highway projects were prominently listed in a $3 billion wish list for hurricane evacuation route improvements Alabama transportation officials presented to the members of the Alabama Congressional delegation recently.
The list includes:
Widening Alabama Hwy. 41 between Brewton and Interstate 65, and building a bypass around Brewton. The project is expected to cost $150 million.
Intersection improvements at U.S. Hwy. 31 and Alabama 41 in Brewton, expected to cost $750,000.
Widening Escambia County 113 from Flomaton to I-65, expected to cost $35 million.
Intersection improvements at U.S. 31 and U.S. 29 in Flomaton, expected to cost $1 million
Intersection improvements at U.S. 31 and Alabama 113 in Flomaton, expected to cost $750,000.
Intersection improvements at U.S. 31 and Alabama 21 in Atmore, expected to cost $750,000.
It also included widening I-65 between Mobile and Montgomery, building a new bridge over Mobile Bay, widening Alabama 167 from the Florida state line to Troy and widening U.S. 331 from Florala to Montgomery, and extending the Foley Beach Express to I-10 and I-65.
Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings said he was pleased that the Brewton projects were included on the list.
Jennings said if the federal government funded the projects today, they couldn't be completed before they're needed.
Jennings said he's also hopeful the Escambia County projects will be funded because they could mean a huge economic boon to the area.
Jennings said that he and other city officials have been told that funding for an engineering study for the proposed Hwy. 41 work is on the state's five-year plan, and that the work is to begin this year.
A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) told state media earlier this week that Shelby asked for the list to better understand all of the highway evacuation route needs in the state.
But the DOT's Harris said the state has been told there won't be immediate funding for the proposed routes.
&#8220Congress is indicating now that there will not be any big influx of additional funding,” he said. &#8220We will sprinkle the projects into our transportation budget when possible and hope for money in the next (federal) transportation funding bill, which will come in 2009.”
Congress should begin work on that bill in 2008, he said.
The last federal transportation bill expired in 2003 and it took Congress nearly two years to authorize a new one. During that time, Harris said, there were an unprecedented number of extensions to the 2003 act. When the bill was reauthorized, it was made retroactive to 2003 and extended to 2009.
He also said that, in the future, the state will look hard at projects for which local governments provide a match, as in the case of four-laning 113 from Flomaton to I-65. The DOT also is considering two other similar projects for which local matches are being provided.