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Opinion | Etowah leaders must work together to complete 759 and Meighan Bridge

When if comes to our aging roads and bridges there is plenty of need in our state, and Etowah County is no exception.

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Alabama is about to get a major influx of cash, thanks to Congress passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Alabama will receive $5.5 billion for our infrastructure and transportation. Of that, $170 million will be used exclusively for roads and bridges. And that’s all in addition to the tax dollars that are already going into the roads and bridges fund.

Now there is one thing I can tell you for certain: there’s about to be a dog fight in Montgomery as legislators and local government officials begin squaring off for their slice of the pie. And Etowah’s leadership – both state representatives and local elected officials – are going to have to work together to make sure we don’t get left out in the cold.

When if comes to our aging roads and bridges there is plenty of need in our state, and Etowah County is no exception. Two of the biggest needs in our county are I-759 and Meighan bridge.

We’ve been talking about finishing I-759 for years, and a lot of the prep work has already been done as far as the planning and approvals process goes. So that should put us ahead of the curve on getting some funds for that project.

Meighan bridge has been a problem for about as long as I can remember. This is a six lane road that leads into a four lane bridge. It isn’t just a matter of convenience or even safety. It’s also a matter of economic development.

It’s a whole lot harder to recruit business and industry into out city and county when you don’t have the roadways and bridges to meet their needs.

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But $170 million is a whole lot of money, and there’s no reason why Etowah County can’t get our fair share. After all, these are our tax dollars taken out of our paychecks. We deserve our share of the money every bit as much as people in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville. 

That’s why it’s critical that all our of elected leaders work together to make sure we get our fair share of those dollars. And it’s going to take our leaders being unified to get it done because bigger communities like Birmingham and Huntsville will run over us if our elected leaders aren’t unified.

When all the lawmakers start scrambling for the same fund of money, it’s kind of like trying to hear a single conversation in a loud and crowded restaurant. If people aren’t working together then you’re really just one more voice getting lost in a sea of voices. You become “white noise” that nobody really listens to.

But if you work together with the same message, the same priorities and the same intensity then it would be like if a group of people all started chanting the same thing in that crowded restaurant. Now you are being heard above the white noise; now you stand out.

And as we all know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So we need out elected leaders at every level to be that squeaky wheel. We need them to work together and be unified. 

I know that in today’s political climate the idea of elected officials working together seems almost like a fantasy. But this isn’t a partisan issue. It’s an Etowah issue. And if our leaders – from our state senator to our local city council members – are all in unison working together then I know we can finally see some real progress.

We may never get an opportunity like this again in our lifetimes. We need our elected officials to bring their A game and make the most of it.

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Written By

Craig Ford is the owner of Ford Insurance and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.

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