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Ainsworth calls for ‘new leadership’ at ALDOT

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said there needs to be some changes at the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) because of the continuing traffic issues on I-65.

Ainsworth took to Twitter Saturday to complain about more traffic jams Alabamians are seeing on the interstate and suggested ALDOT Director John Cooper is partially responsible for the problems.

“ALDOT is spending $1 billion on a project with less than 1/20th of the traffic count,” Ainsworth said. “ALDOT needs a new plan, new priorities, and new leadership NOW.”

The lieutenant governor has been calling for a third lane to be added to all of I-65 in the Yellowhammer State.

“If Tennessee can six-lane I-65, Alabama should do the same,” he said in February. “It’s my number one infrastructure project for Alabama. Let’s all work together to make it happen and end frustrating interstate gridlock.”

ALDOT’s Chief of Communication Tony Harris didn’t respond to the criticism by Ainsworth, but instead pointed to some of the recently completed projects on I-65.

“In 2017, in the first weeks of her administration, Governor Ivey directed ALDOT to fast-track a project to widen Interstate 65 from Exit 242 in Pelham to Exit 238 in Alabaster. This project has been completed, carrying a cost of about $70 million,” Harris said in a statement. “ALDOT in recent years funded construction of a new interstate bridge and expanded the interchange in Calera that will help accommodate the next major widening project on Interstate 65. Details about that project will be released later this year.

“Interstate 65 is also getting attention in north Alabama. We expect to take bids later this year for an extensive rehabilitation project on the existing Interstate 65 bridges over the Tennessee River. This rehab project will extend the life of these 50-year-old bridges. Current estimated cost is $30 million. Multiple bridge replacements and upgrades are underway on Interstate 65 in south Alabama to preserve this major transportation route.”

Ainsworth also told WHNT News 19 that people are “tired” of the traffic issues.

“It’s time for new direction, new leadership in ALDOT, and people are tired of what’s going on with our state,” he said. “Make sure everybody understands, the ALDOT director serves at the pleasure of the governor, and when you look at his leadership and his continued failed leadership, it’s time for him to go.”

Cooper became director of of ALDOT in 2011 and is facing legal issues after being arrested for a harassment charge last month.

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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