Tom Magazzu - Editor

Few of us may realize the magnitude of the recent announcement by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby that Lauderdale County would receive a U.S. Department of Transportation grant of $14,880,000 for highway infrastructure improvements.

The money is part of the DOT’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant Program which focuses on economic development and infrastructure upgrades.

A recent release quoted Lauderdale County Commissioner Roger Garner with crediting State Senator Tim Melson, and state Representatives Lynn Greer and Phillip Pettus with a lot of leg work on this project. There is a lot more work still to take place. However, the fact that Lauderdale County received almost $15 million in transportation funding while Madison County received around $9.3 million during the same funding cycle – with all that is going on in that part of the state – is eye-popping. Madison County Commission Chairman, Dale Strong, was quoted as saying that the $9.3 million is the largest US Department of Transportation grant in history for Huntsville/Madison county. Yet, the Lauderdale grant is over $5.6 million greater.

Regardless of how we feel personally about the project or some of the other funding mechanisms, we can rest assured that Sen. Shelby believes in its economic development potential. This Training Center / Agricultural Event center has the potential to be a huge mixed-use development. In addition, this two-plus miles of widening between Indian Springs and Harris Drive, though promised many years ago, was still nowhere in sight.

This Agricultural Center project suddenly put the six-laning back on the table likely with better grading and detail than would have been incorporated when the project materialized 15-20 years down the road.

We’ll have to deal with road work for a couple of years, and what will likely be two more signaled intersections won’t shorten the commute time for those who live east of Florence. However, that comes with the growth that most of us say we want for NW Alabama.

We can also rest assured that many more people had Senator Shelby’s ear than just the three or four mentioned earlier for this to come together so quickly.

Very few of us know who they are, and it doesn’t matter. They came together with one objective in a big way. The timing was perfect, and we have a senator in Washington with seniority who chairs the Committee on Appropriations.