The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 14, 2013

New law to speed road, bridge improvements

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — More than 250 bridge and road repair projects will be able to move forward in rural areas of Alabama as a result of a law signed last month by Gov. Robert Bentley, his office announced Monday.

Bentley's office said all of Alabama's 67 counties have transportation projects in this round of selections that will be funded by the Rural Assistance Match Program. These include 22 rural counties that previously couldn't provide a match to obtain federal funds to replace deteriorating bridges and roads.

According to the governor's staff, the most critical selection criteria was the safety of transporting school buses.

"I don't want school buses to have to go around bad bridges," Bentley said. "As we improve roads and bridges in rural areas, we'll make those communities more attractive to companies that are looking for places to build and expand."

All but six of the counties have bridges that need to be replaced or undergo major repairs.

Barbour County will have five bridges replaced and two repaired at a cost of more than $5 million, with no local budget outlay.

Other counties will see roads widened, culverts added and new surfaces applied.

While most counties will have projects with costs totaling between $5 and $6 million, Hale and Lawrence's projects will top $7 million. Marengo County will have three resurfacing projects and three bridge rehabilitation projects totaling $6.9 million.

Headland in Henry County will benefit from a $650,000 project for improvements to South Main Street.

The Alabama Transportation and Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP) was established in 2012 to take advantage of federal matching funds to rehabilitate deteriorated bridges and roadways. Not all counties could take advantage of that program due to sparse budgets.

The law that created RAMP allows for a bond issue to pay for the counties' 20 percent share. The planned projects in the ATRIP pipeline now number 693.

If all eligible bridges replacements are completed, local governments will be able to request funding for additional road improvement projects.

Republican Rep. Mac McCutcheon of Capshaw sponsored the bill in the House. "This statewide initiative will improve infrastructure for highway safety and economic development for future and existing jobs," he said. "ATRIP has been one of the most aggressive transportation improvements in the state's history."

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