By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
What if Etowah County and the 4th Congressional District had the same leadership in our congressional representative as they do in South Alabama?
Last week, Congressman Bradley Byrne of Mobile made a strong, public stand for construction of a bridge on Interstate 10 over the Mobile River. The congressman called the project, “a national priority,” and warned that inaction would endanger public safety and economic development.
How refreshing to see a congressman who gets it! Projects like this are essential to our economy. These projects create jobs almost immediately for the workers who build these roads and bridges. In the long-term, these projects facilitate commerce, which in turn allows businesses to expand and hire more employees.
And just as Mobile and Baldwin counties will benefit from completing the work on I-10, Etowah County and North Alabama would benefit from completing the I-759 extension.
Building the I-759 extension in Etowah County is just as much an economic development and public safety issue as Mobile’s I-10 project. With all of the congestion piling up on Meighan Boulevard, we need help from our congressman to put pressure on the federal government to provide relief to that area with the I-759 extension.
We are already seeing the traffic congestion getting worse! And once the new shopping center development is complete, it will become too difficult for residents to get to and from work and for shoppers and visitors to travel throughout our county effectively – not to mention the enormous public safety issue it will cause due to increased traffic in the congested area.
How is it that a freshman congressman can see that this is an issue for his district, but our 9-term congressman can’t provide any federal support for the issue in our district?
Congressman Byrne said, “…all interested parties – including federal, state and local leaders as well as government and business interests – have a ‘common understanding’ of what needs to be done.” Here in North Alabama, our local delegation, community leaders, and business leaders all understand what needs to be done in our district. Now all we need is for our congressman to fill the gap with support from the federal government.
I applaud Congressman Byrne for making a stand for his district. He looked the Federal Highway Administration in the eye and announced that he had “thrown a stick in the sand.” That is what leaders do. They do not sit in their offices in Washington and collect a paycheck at the taxpayers’ expense. They take action and demand results.
How many textile mills closed and jobs have we lost because of the Central American Free Trade Agreement that our congressman not only voted for but cast the deciding vote? How many businesses have passed us over because of unfinished projects like I-759 that will continue to endanger our safety and economic development?
As Congressman Byrne said: “We have an obvious problem. Why can’t we fix it? It’s my job as a congressman to fix that.” I only hope that Congressman Byrne’s leadership encourages our congressman to step up on behalf of his district as well!
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.