U.S. Sen. Katie Britt, R-Alabama, weighed in Monday on a debate over where to direct transportation funding: toward widening I-65 or adding lanes to the West Alabama Highway from Tuscaloosa to Mobile?
“We have to make sure that we’re looking at the whole state and that we’re doing all of it. So I don’t think there’s one answer over another,” Britt said during a recent interview with WBRC anchor and reporter Jonathan Hardison. “I think that that means we have to work hard and work together to invest in every corner of this state. Invest in your main thoroughfares, but can’t forget about your rural communities. They’re important, too.”
Britt’s comment comes as state lawmakers and officials from the Alabama Department of Transportation grapple over spending on the project to add lanes to the West Alabama Corridor.
During the most recent meeting of the Alabama Legislature Contract Review Committee, Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, put a hold on contracts related to the project, questioning the costs and financing plan. In response to Elliott’s block, Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, placed a hold on all ALDOT contracts, effectively bringing numerous projects around the state to a halt for the next 45 days.
As a native of rural Alabama, Britt emphasized the importance of building infrastructure for rural communities while balancing the needs of expanding I-65.
“I know how important critical infrastructure is, whether it’s getting stuff from farm to market or whether it’s creating economic development opportunities so that you can get an 18-wheeler into a community and spur some growth and opportunity for those children that live there,” Britt said. “You have to look at the whole state. We have needs in every single corner of this state. So we certainly want to make sure we’re investing more money, obviously, in the lifeblood coming right through on (I-65). But you can’t forget about our rural communities.”
The West Alabama Highway will add lanes to U.S. 43 and State Route 69 to complete a four-lane corridor connecting Mobile and Tuscaloosa. The project has been discussed for decades as a way to bring economic opportunities to the region and add a new north-south route in the state. The groundbreaking for the project was held on Nov. 12, 2021 and attended by Gov. Kay Ivey and area officials.
Ivey also recently announced plans to widen I-65 in portions of Shelby County as a first step toward a wider I-65.