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At the heart of the dispute is a nearly $75 million contract for that project, which broke ground in 2021. The goal is to expand a two-lane road to four lanes and connect Thomasville to Tuscaloosa.
“It’s a region of this state that the rest of this state wants to forget for some reason,” said Rep. AJ McCampbell (D-Livingston).
Rep. McCampbell supports the project. He says critics are ignoring much-needed investment in an area populated by predominantly black Alabamians.
“If we are ever to be able to achieve development and growth in the western part of the Black Belt, then we as a state need to start investing there,” McCampbell said.
Senator Chris Elliott doesn’t see it that way.
“I’m afraid the economic development argument is a fallacy,” said Elliott (R-Josephine).
Elliott points to I-65 as an example and says there are still poor areas along that highway. He also criticized the rising costs of the project.
The amount was originally estimated at about $800 million, but an ALDOT official said Friday that it would likely be higher.
“This government has a history – particularly when you look at prisons – of underestimating projects of this magnitude in the first place. I want to make sure we go into this with our eyes wide open,” Elliott said.
Elliott also expressed concern about the lack of federal funding for this project.
This disagreement was expressed at last week’s contract review committee meeting.
Elliott said he wanted to delay approval of the West Alabama Corridor Project contract, prompting English Rep. — who supports the project — to say he intended to keep all 14 ALDOT contracts.
At the end of the session, lawmakers ultimately decided not to approve all 14 contracts and planned to meet with ALDOT this week to work out an agreement.