One may ask the question: What does it take to find agreement on securing funding for more than $100 million in road projects? The answer would be the result of several factors. Local political leadership is a must. Another key factor is a comprehensive and logical approach in placing priorities on specific projects that provide the best solutions to emerging traffic patterns. And, of course, money.
Those elements came together recently when three major road projects were simultaneously announced by Gov. Kay Ivey at a gathering of Huntsville business and civic leaders. She said that funding agreements have reached a consensus among local political leadership, which will result in major investments in widening Interstate 565, U.S. Highway 72 and Alabama Highway 53 in northwest Madison County.
These agreements followed meetings to discuss the area’s road infrastructure needs between Gov. Ivey and Madison County chairman Dale Strong, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison Mayor Paul Finley as well as members of the Madison County legislative delegation.
Gov. Ivey said, “We discussed the great progress we’ve made as well as some other projects that are needed in this area. And let me just tell you, your local elected leadership officials can give a strong pitch.” She specifically cited State Senator Tom Butler (R-Madison) for his “strong advocacy” for the expansion of Highway 72.
Chairman Strong commended Gov. Ivey’s cooperation and willingness to invest in north Alabama.
“Governor Ivey’s support of improving our road network will have far reaching impact for not only commuters in the greater Huntsville area but across the entire Valley area,” chairman Strong said. “Improving these major arteries carry commuters from a 17-county region that travel here every day. It’s crucial that we continue to invest in our roads to ensure the high quality of life that exists in north Alabama.”
All three of the projects have been part of the area’s road projects priorities, according to Dennis Madsen, Manager of Urban and Long-Range Planning for the City of Huntsville and a coordinator with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
One MPO responsibility is a long-range transportation plan to address a planning horizon of at least 20 years. The MPO’s long range transportation plan covers a planning period of 25 years, and is updated every five years, according to Madsen. The plan includes both long-range and short-range strategies or actions that lead to the development of an integrated multimodal transportation system that facilitates the safe and efficient movement of people and goods, by addressing current and future transportation demand. The MPO prepares the long-range transportation plan in cooperation with the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Strong, in addition to being chairman of the Madison County Commission, is also chairman of the MPO.
Madsen said local officials demonstrated their commitment to this package of road projects by putting” skin in the game.” While the typical agreement on road construction is 80 percent state and federal funds and 20 percent local funds, Strong and Battle raised the ante by providing a 40 percent stake to Alabama’s 60 contribution.
“To be a growing, prosperous city you have to have a transportation grid that supports the needs of your workforce,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “These three major projects are a strong start in accomplishing our ROR2 plan to keep metro Huntsville thriving and provide a high quality of life. These projects, and others to come, will help us sustain the quality of life our citizens expect, manage our growth and remain a strong community for future employment.”
It was the combination of those factors — local public leadership, long-range planning and increased local investment – that led to Gov. Ivey’s announcement of three major road improvements.
- Widening Interstate 565 from County Line Road to Wall-Triana Highway: $11.7 million
- Widening U.S. 72 West from Providence Main to Nance Road: $50 million
- Widening Alabama 53 from Taurus Drive to Harvest Road: $50 million
Strong added, “[T]his is another example of how we can do big things when we work together as a region.”
Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News.