Stimulus funds financing three Shelby County projects

Stimulus funds will finance three Shelby County transportation projects, along with others throughout the state, said Joe McInnes, director of the Alabama Department of Transportation.

McInnes was the featured speaker at the Greater Shelby Chamber of Commerce Membership Luncheon on May 27. St. Vincent’s Health System and Legacy Federal Credit Union sponsored this month’s luncheon.

McInnes said about $1.45 billion in projects are in progress in Alabama. He said his department was asked to identify “shovel ready” projects when seeking federal stimulus dollars earlier this year.

“The projects had to be ready to go in 90 to 120 days,” McInnes said.

Alabama sought about $1.2 billion for such projects and was awarded $414 million – half of which will be used this year and half in 2010.

Projects in Shelby County funded with stimulus dollars include the resurfacing of Highway 280, a sidewalk construction project in Hoover and work on Highway 155 in the southern portion of Shelby County.

Three criteria determine which projects his department chooses to pursue, McInnes said. The department considers safety concerns, what the community needs versus what it wants and how a project will affect economic development.

McInnes said he understands the congested Highway 280 corridor “isn’t working” and is a concern for many in Shelby County. He said his department has hired a firm, which is doing preliminary design work for an elevated toll road, as well as a firm to examine how construction of a roadway would be financed.

“We want to make the existing 280 work,” McInnes said. “While an elevated roadway isn’t the only answer to why 280 doesn’t work now, it is one solution.”

McInnes said he and others in Gov. Bob Riley’s administration have about 18 months left in office.

“Safety is paramount to us in ALDOT,” he said. “If I can leave you with one message, it’s this: Wear your seat belt. Whether it’s to go on a trip or to move your car from one part of your yard to another, wear your seat belt.”

He cited these statistics on seat belt use.

-Of 1,143 people who died in automobile accidents in 2008, 676 were not wearing a seatbelt.

-People are 80 percent more likely to die in an automobile accident if they are not wearing a seatbelt.

-Two-thirds of this year’s 200 fatalities were people who were not wearing seatbelts.