11 months ago

Shelby County officials applaud funding, plan to finally widen critical Hoover-Pelham-Helena corridor Alabama Highway 261

It took a very long time — decades even. However, last week prayers were answered for Shelby County commuters that have been dealing with rush hour back-ups since the 1980s along Alabama Highway 261, a critical route that connects Helena and portions of Pelham and Hoover to U.S. Highway 31, Valleydale Road, Interstate 65 and beyond.

Helena was once a tiny hamlet in the western part of Shelby County. However, as population shifted to Birmingham’s southern suburbs, a trend that goes back to the mid-1980s, Helena has experienced a boom but has struggled with infrastructure woes in keeping up with the need. Much of it is not of its own doing given Helena is somewhat hemmed in to the east by Pelham, to the north by Hoover and to the south by Alabaster, and to the west and northwest by the Cahaba River.

Overcoming those geographic and jurisdiction obstacles have proven difficult for the area’s elected officials. However, State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) announced last week $30 million in combined federal and state funding to widen Highway 261 from two to four lanes had been secured.

(ALDOT)

“Most of your right-of-way acquisition is done,” Ward explained to Yellowhammer News. “You’re going from [U.S. Highway 31] down to Bearden Road. In 2021, the utilities get done. It is basically your sewer, water and power lines. In 2022, it is the actual construction and completion of the road.”

Ward broke down the funding, explaining that $24.2 million in federal money combined with $6 million in state funds in addition to “in-kind” contributions from Pelham, Helena, Hoover and Shelby County are making the project possible. But according to Ward, it has been a long wait.

“I got elected in ’02 to the House,” Ward said. “And I fought every year. I know [State Rep.] Matt Fridy has since then. Everybody that has come behind me has had the same issue. It’s been forever.”

According to the Alabaster Republican, right-of-way acquisitions and the revolving door at the governor’s mansion have led to the delays.

“In fairness, a lot of it was right-of-way acquisitions are a nightmare there, apparently,” he added. “Another part of it was every time a new governor came in, we switched priorities.”

Helena Mayor Mark Hall welcomed the news, noting the efforts to get the Alabama Department of Transportation to make widening the route a priority.

“That’s something we’ve been working on a long time – probably for the last six years,” Hall explained. “You know, I’ve been making regular trips to ALDOT and occasionally meeting with [ALDOT Director John] Cooper and showing him then and trying to convince him to find a way to get it on the front-burner for projects.”

Hall credited the joint transportation committee for making it a top-five project.

“It’s definitely a quagmire that needs to be addressed,” he said. “I’m really excited about the possibility that things could start moving by 2021. We tried everything. The mayors, the people that are affected by it to make sure we could get the funding and try to put something together to get the money because I think it would be the best money any of us have ever spent. It’s effects not only Helena but Pelham, parts of Hoover and Shelby County roads as well.”

According to Ward and Hall, the widening of Alabama Highway 261 was the first phase of a larger project. Eventually, a route that would bypass Helena, which would begin where the proposed widening would end at the Highway 261-Bearden Road intersection and connect to Shelby County Road 52, will be built. Widening Highway 261 to downtown Helena would prove difficult because of an existing quarry, a cemetery and historic structure in downtown Helena.

State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), a candidate for U.S. Senate and who also represents a portion of the area to be impacted by the project, pointed to the joint effort required to make last week’s announcement a reality.

“Everybody that has served, not just during my time but Mary Sue McClurkin, Mike Hill, others who served and weren’t even a part of the Helena area – they worked hard,” Mooney said. “The county commission has worked hard. Shelby County has been begging for this fix for a long time.”

“It’s Hoover, Helena, Pelham and the county – all four entities are involved, and it’s one reason it has irked me can’t get more done with it,” he added.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

4 hours ago

Alabama Power sends hundreds of linemen, support personnel to assist after Tropical Storm Isaias hammered East Coast

Tropical Storm Isaias hit the eastern coast of the United States hard this week, leaving millions of Americans without power while producing high winds, heavy rain and tornadoes.

In the wake of the storm’s wrath, Alabama Power Company on Wednesday morning sent 133 lineworkers and 94 support personnel to New Jersey to assist utility FirstEnergy in its storm response.

A release from the company outlined that Alabama Power upon arrival will support FirstEnergy subsidiary Jersey Central Power and Light, which serves 1.1 million customers in the central and northern parts of the Garden State.

In addition to directly supporting FirstEnergy, Alabama Power advised that it released more than 325 contract lineworkers to assist in storm restoration at various other utilities along the East Coast.

97

“Our crews are prepped and ready to offer assistance in the restoration efforts following Tropical Storm Isaias,” stated Kristie Barton, Alabama Power Company’s power delivery services general manager.

“As soon as it is safe to do so, which includes observing all of our COVID-19 safe practices protocol, we’ll be working to restore power as quickly as possible,” she continued.

The company’s help was reportedly coordinated through the mutual assistance program of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, a trade association comprised of several member utilities.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Ivey named to leadership of National Governors Association

The National Governors Association (NGA) on Wednesday announced its new executive committee for 2020-2021, with Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) becoming chair of the association that represents the 55 leaders of all American states and territories.

Members of the executive committee were elected during the NGA summer meeting, which was held in a virtual format this year.

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) was one of the governors elected to the nine-member executive committee.

115

“I’m honored to have been elected to serve on the [NGA] Executive Committee for 2020-21,” Ivey said in a Wednesday tweet. “I look forward to working with my fellow governors to develop initiatives & policies to support our country now & in the future.”

The NGA recently highlighted Alabama’s workforce development efforts under the Ivey administration as a model for other states to emulate.

Ivey assumed the governor’s office on April 10, 2017. In November 2018, she was elected to her first full term as Alabama’s chief executive. That term will expire in January 2023. Ivey could seek reelection in 2022.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Democrats are banking on creating more moochers in 2020

The latest stimulus bill in Congress is tied up for many reasons, but a major sticking point appears to be the continuation of a $600 a week unemployment booster on top of what states already pay in benefits.

With the current impasse, there is currently no bonus to be given to those who are unemployed.

This is creating a battle between those who want to keep the bonus payment going for the foreseeable future and those who believe that the high payment is keeping people from vigorously re-entering the job market.

The stalemate in Washington, D.C. will eventually break. Some form of sweetener will be included, and the battle for stimulus will move on to the next bill.

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) views this battle as part of the larger ideological battle in the United States.

270

Brooks appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” on Wednesday and referred to the Democratic Party as “the moocher party.” He said he believes this disconnect all started in the 1960s when Democrats embraced the idea of the “Great Society.”

Brooks opined, “Democrats have discovered that’s a huge voting block that they get in elections, so one way to win an election is to turn more independent, self-reliant voters into moochers.”

The congressman from Huntsville believes this is nothing new and noted how political it all is.

“Democrats perceive that that’s going to help them tremendously in the 2020 elections just a few months from now,” he advised.

My takeaway:

Brooks, of course, is right.

The argument from the media and their Democrats is always going to be some version of: “We want to give you [this] and they don’t because they want you to die.”

Free healthcare, free childcare, free college education, and it never stops.

Stopping any of this is the equivalent of kicking a baby in the face and taking its food.

Democrats have bought into this idea for years, and in the time of rampant unemployment and a pandemic, they will kick their grievance politics into full gear to gain new power.

The House, Senate and presidency are at risk this year. Republicans can give in and extend the $600 unemployment benefit (they will), and Democrats will just move to the next free item.

In 2020, this strategy might work.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

7 hours ago

Dollar General opens 450,000 square foot distribution center in Montgomery

Budget shopping chain Dollar General on Wednesday announced the opening of its large, new cold storage distribution center in Montgomery.

The 450,000 square foot facility is the product of a $26 million investment for the company and will support around 65 new jobs in the River Region.

The Montgomery facility is cold storage, meaning it is designed to store goods that must be kept chilled like milk and deli products.

“Welcome to Montgomery Dollar General, thank you for investing in our state and in our people,” said Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday during a digital event celebrating the facility being opened.

258

“We are incredibly grateful for the tremendous support from both state and local officials who helped make this project happen,” remarked Rod West, Dollar General’s vice president of perishables growth and development.

The low-cost retailer opened its first store in Alabama in 1965 and now has around 800 retail locations in the Yellowhammer State.

“Dollar General is a trusted company with a long history in Alabama,” said Elton Dean, Montgomery County Commission chairman, in a statement on Monday.

“The River Region has a lot to offer, and we are thrilled that this esteemed organization, that does business across the country, recognizes that,” Dean added.

Dollar General also has a traditional distribution center in Bessemer and claims to employ approximately 8,100 Alabamians in total.

Montgomery’s new distribution center is located on Mobile Highway, around 15 minutes southwest of downtown.

“We welcome Dollar General and look forward to years of partnership and progress to come,” commented Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed on Wednesday,

The company says it will support around 1,500 stores in surrounding areas and help spur the “DG Fresh” initiative “which is a strategic multi-phased shift to self-distribution of frozen and refrigerated goods such as dairy, deli and frozen products” according to a release.

“We are confident that Dollar General recognized our strong workforce and business-friendly environment when choosing a location for this facility. We are excited to welcome Dollar General and countless companies to come, to grow in Montgomery,” concluded Arthur DuCote, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce chairman.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

7 hours ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) on Wednesday announced its endorsement of Republican nominee Tommy Tuberville in the Yellowhammer State’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Tuberville, after defeating former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in last month’s GOP primary runoff, is set to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November’s general election. The AFA had endorsed Sessions in the runoff contest.

In a statement, AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson said, “We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race. He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator.”

113

“Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama,” he concluded.

This comes as another major endorsement for Tuberville from the agribusiness community. The Alabama Farmers Federation endorsed the former Auburn University football coach last year and has been credited as being integral along his path to securing the Republican nomination.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association. The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success,” Tuberville stated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn