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Criticism grows over West Alabama Corridor project amid I-65 slowdowns

Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth took to social media Sunday to criticize the $800 million – $1 billion West Alabama Corridor project as a misallocation of resources, and was joined in his concerns by lawmakers in the State House Wednesday. Ainsworth further called for Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper to be replaced.

Ainsworth wrote that the frequent traffic congestion on I-65, which connects Mobile to Huntsville, “frustrates drivers, hurts tourism, and slows commerce.”

“Meanwhile, ALDOT is spending $1 billion on a project with less than 1/20th of the traffic count,” he wrote. “ALDOT needs a new plan, new priorities, and new leadership now.”

by Sen. Chris Elliot, R-Josephine has been critical of the West Alabama Corridor project – which would provide a four-lane corridor from Thomasville to Tuscaloosa – since at least October of 2022, saying on The Jeff Poor Show that investing in areas with shrinking populations like Thomasville as opposed to growing areas “doesn’t make any sense to me.”

On Wednesday, shortly after a meeting of the Joint Transportation Committee, Elliott reaffirmed his concerns with the project, arguing that the expense could be used better elsewhere.

“I am interested in Gov. Ainsworth’s push to use money in areas of the state that I think would benefit more people when he talks about I-65 versus the West Alabama Corridor,” he told Alabama Daily News.

“I’m concerned about the amount of money we’re probably going to borrow against future gas tax revenues in order to pay for that, and that’ll be something that I will, you will, your children will be paying for. I wonder whether or not that’s the use of funds we need to be doing instead of widening I-65.”

As to whether ALDOT’s director should be replaced, Elliott said that while he hadn’t “always seen eye to eye” with Cooper, that decision was ultimately up to Gov. Kay Ivey. Gov. Ivey’s office declined to comment on Ainsworth’s calls to replace Cooper.

Cooper has been named in a lawsuit currently making its way through the court system that alleges the ALDOT director moved forward with the construction of a new bridge to Gulf Shores due to a “personal vendetta” against a company that operates a nearby toll bridge. Cooper is also scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 2 on criminal charges of misdemeanor harassment.

The West Alabama Corridor project broke ground in late 2021, and is expected to be complete sometime in 2026. Meanwhile, lawmakers made a renewed push this past legislative session to move forward with expanding I-65, with several legislators signing onto a joint resolution urging ALDOT to prioritize widening the major thoroughfare.

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