Local elected and business leaders from Tuscaloosa, Thomasville and Fayette joined together on Thursday to voice their strong support for construction of the West Alabama Highway.
“We all know that infrastructure investment is the first step toward economic development success,” said Kyle South, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. “Not having those assets limits, if not eliminates, the possibility of growth and prosperity. Our message today is simple: we want the West Alabama Highway project to move forward without any further delay.”
The West Alabama Highway will create a four-lane, north-south highway connecting Tuscaloosa and Mobile. The project has been discussed for decades as a way to also bring economic opportunities to many rural communities.
State Sen. Gerald Allen said the West Alabama Highway “creates opportunities for rural Alabama for new jobs and new industry to come.” Allen, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, urged the state’s leaders to continue supporting the project.
“Stay the course, don’t look back. Look forward because this will help rural Alabama,” Allen said.
State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said the state’s willingness to build the highway sends a positive signal to business and industry.
“When the governor of the state of Alabama says we’re going to invest millions of dollars in an area of the state that has been historically neglected and denied this sort of opportunity, it’s a signal to other people that is it OK to invest in West Alabama as well,” England said. “This is an opportunity, an invitation to bring some of that investment back.”
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox noted the highway will connect Tuscaloosa and Mobile, “two of the economic hearts of our state,” and that when the expansion of the Port of Mobile is completed, Mercedes may start exporting automobiles from Alabama’s port instead of having to export vehicles out of the Port of Savannah, Georgia.
“This project, as laid out by the governor and the Legislature, begins to turn the page on much-needed investment in an area of the state that’s gone decades without it,” Maddox said. “We shouldn’t be walking backwards from this very important moment in our state’s history.”
Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day read from the Rebuild Alabama Act at the event to argue in support of continuing work on the West Alabama Highway.
That law requires Alabama to build economic development highways “with priority given to projects in underserved areas of the state,” the Rebuild Alabama Act states.
In building the West Alabama Highway, the Alabama Department of Transportation “is doing exactly what the Legislature overwhelmingly voted to do by passing the Rebuild Alabama Act,” Day said.
Construction of the West Alabama Highway is being funded through the Rebuild Alabama Act, which was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey in 2019.
Last month, more than a dozen elected leaders throughout West Alabama gathered in Thomasville to express their support for continued construction of the highway.