By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday Rep. Jared Polis (D) from Colorado on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives proposed an amendment which would have denied the State of Alabama funding for the completion of the Northern Beltline project that it is due to receive from the Appalachian Development Highway System. Rep. Bachus called Rep. Polis’s amendment a “Pearl Harbor attack on the Northern Beltline.”
The Polis Amendment would have been attached to a bill (H.R. 4348) that would extend federal highway programs by an additional 90 days. H.R. 4348 is necessary because the Republican House and the Democratic Senate have yet to come to terms on competing highway bills.
Rep. Polis called the $3.7 billion Northern Beltway around the City of Birmingham the “Alabama ‘Pork-way.’” The Polis Amendment would have prevented the State of Alabama from receiving funds from the Appalachian Development Highway System, effectively killing the Beltway.
Congressman Spencer Bachus (R) from Vestavia said, “We were successful in defeating this sneak attack on the Northern Beltline. The construction of the Northern Beltline is vital to the economic future of the Birmingham region, and it will have other benefits like relieving traffic congestion and reducing air pollution.”
The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has finished buying land for one 3.4-mile segment of the beltline, connecting Alabama 79 and Alabama 75 near Pinson and is already in the process of removing trees to begin construction. According to the schedule, ALDOT will next start buying land for the segments from Alabama 79 west to Interstate 65. The beltline would intersect with I-65 just north of Gardendale. ALDOT estimates that the project will take more than 20 years to complete. The 52-mile beltline will follow an east-west arc from Interstate 59 near Argo to I-20/59 south of Birmingham.
Rep. Bachus said, “The economic impact study done by the University of Alabama Center for Business and Economic Research cited the many benefits of this project, including the creation of 70,000 jobs and a $7 billion economic impact during construction alone. The Northern Beltline project continues to have my full support.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D) from Selma broke with her party on this issue and was one of four Democrats to break with their party to help Republicans vote down the Polis Amendment. Rep. Sewell was quoted in the Birmingham News saying, “This project provides funding for important infrastructure development and serves as a vital source of jobs for workers and families across the state of Alabama. While I understand that difficult budgetary decisions must be made in prioritizing funding for essential infrastructure projects across the country, the Northern Beltline remains a viable and critical infrastructure development project for the region and should remain adequately funded.” The Northern Beltline is in both Rep. Bachus’s 6th Congressional District and Rep. Sewell’s 7th Congressional District.
The Polis amendment was part of a procedural motion from the House Democrat leadership that was defeated by a vote of 242 in opposition to 176 in favor.
To read Congressman Bachus’s statement in its entirety: