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Ainsworth says ALDOT director ‘needs to be fired’ over mismanaged priorities

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth reignited his feud with Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) Director John Cooper over what Ainsworth views a neglect of the state’s true infrastructure needs.

In an interview with “The Jeff Poor Show,” Ainsworth said Cooper’s pursuit of misaligned priorities from North Alabama to Mobile and Baldwin County in South Alabama, “is gonna catch up with us” in the future.

“I’ve called John Cooper out for not doing a good job, and I’m gonna keep doing that, Ainsworth said. “He has totally, in my opinion, disrespected North Alabama by the lack of infrastructure funding in comparison to the growth we’ve seen. And I don’t think he’s done a good job. I’ll say it again: He needs to be fired

“I mean, he does not do a good job as [ALDOT] director. He continues to neglect major projects, and then he sits there and puts priority on projects like (U.S. Highway) 43, and Southwest Alabama. That’s fine if you want to do that — but it’s a horrible idea to do that project without getting federal funding.

Ainsworth said the benefits of reallocating state funds earmarked for other projects, such as the $1.5 billion allocated for U.S. 43, used as a match, could draw down 80% of the necessary funding from federal sources.

“We’re working on a plan right now that we’re going to in to make sure that [Interstate 65] gets wide,” he said. “And and it can be done.

RELATED: Ainsworth ‘proud’ Trump endorses I-65 widening

“I think on I-65, let’s get it done right. You take the money they’re spending on (U.S.) 43, which will probably end up being $1.5 billion of state money — not a dollar of federal money. Now, if you let me have that money and use it as a match to draw down 80%, I-65 is done. My message to the people of Alabama is: Isn’t it a better use of our funds to take that money and draw down 80%? Now you’re looking at $15 billion being spent on roads. Are we going to spend 100% on one project and then use different funds? It’s just common sense. Anybody would say if you can draw down 80% — (U.S.) 43, by the way, would qualify for 90% — why aren’t they pursuing the federal match then?

“I’d also make an argument Baldwin County is not getting its fair share money, Ainsworth said.

“My point is always go back to data. And the data says there’s 8 million people coming to the coast … But as a state, we owe it to those cities in that county to make sure we get people in and out, you know, effectively and efficiently. And then, that funnels up to (Interstate) 65 … Normally, it’s five-and-a-half, six-hour drive from here to go to Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, is taking people nine to ten hours.

RELATED: Ivey announces I-65 widening, $500M for projects

“We’re gonna continuously grow but I think one of the things that we’re gonna be foolish on looking back I think, is you know, if we do not stay ahead of the growth from an infrastructure standpoint, it’s gonna catch up with us.”

Last year, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the widening of I-65 from Alabaster to Calera, a widening of four-mile stretch of Interstate 59, and a new interchange to connect Interstate 459 to Alabama Highway 150.

At that time, Ainsworth said, “It’s a start.”

State lawmakers whose regions stand to benefit from ALDOT priorities publicly dispute the best use of infrastructure projects as well.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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