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Holds over highway funding dispute expected to be lifted this week

The chairman of the state’s Joint Contract Review Committee said he expects movement this week on a dispute over the West Alabama Corridor project.

Last week, Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) placed a hold on Alabama Department of Transportation contracts after Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) placed a 45-day hold on the design-build contract for the highway.

Committee Chair Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mount) said on “Capitol Journal” he believes both holds will be released this week after a meeting between the legislators and ALDOT officials.

“We had very significant questions about that (West Alabama Corridor) as in cost,” he said Friday on the APT program. “We are talking about appropriating the Rebuild Alabama funds and the Rebuild Alabama funds are generated through the new gas tax that was passed in 2019 – I believe – and doing that efficiently, and so in doing that the executive branch wants to move forward with the Western Corridor.

“We had members on the committee … that are very much for that (the West Alabama
Corridor). We had others that were agnostic and others that felt like doing something on Interstate 65 was of paramount importance, and you see that play out on social media so that’s where that sort of came to a head today.”

The committee met in executive session at its hearing last Thursday to discuss the holds, Roberts said.

“It came down to on the Western Corridor contract one member wanted to hold that because he had questions of the Alabama Department of Transportation, so I have allowed members to hold a contract individually until they get their questions answered on it,” Roberts said. “We can hold a contract up to 45 days, so I adjourned the meeting for a moment, and we went back in a backroom.

“Behind the scenes we met as a group and I pointed out that it is important to me that we allow the members to hold a contract to get their questions answered. And yet, had we voted on that, it would have passed at the moment.”

Roberts said that a compromise was reached.

“We came to a compromise that it would be held …,” he said. “The other member
felt that it was important then to hold all other transportation contracts for the day so I allowed that to happen as well.

“I am anticipating a meeting to happen (this) week to answer those questions that are out there and that hold released (this) week and the contract moving forward along with every other transportation contract.”

The longest the Committee can hold up any contract is 45 days. At that point, the governor
can choose to sign the contract even if the whole committee were opposed to it.

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