County engineer touts plan for highway funding
By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer
COLUMBIANA – County Engineer Randy Cole made recommendations to the County Commission concerning state funding for road construction during a Dec. 10 meeting.
Cole recommended the county decline the Alabama Department of Transportation Rural Assistance Match Program, which would provide $5 million for highway bridge projects, in favor of remaining with the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program.
“It’s probably the only time in my career I’ll see this kind of money available from the state,” Cole said.
With ATRIP, the county has the potential of receiving around $10 million for road improvements as long as the county can provide a 20-percent match.
With RAMP, no match is required, but counties are regulated on how they can spend the funding.
Cole said the county has requested $20 million through ATRIP.
“I don’t think we’ll get it, but we want to let them know we’re ready to play,” Cole said. “We’ve got the projects; we’ve got the needs.”
The deadline for counties to apply for RAMP funding is Jan. 9, according to County Manager Alex Dudchock.
Dudchock said more than half of Alabama counties were looking at the RAMP funding because they wouldn’t need a 20-percent match, but have since realized the value in taking out bonds for the match to potentially receive more funding with ATRIP.
Cole said ALDOT might delineate $5 million to each county instead of divvying up extra funding.
“That would turn the bond money into federal aid money. There’d be nothing smooth about the projects,” Cole said. “It’s not like they’re going to cut us a check and say, ‘Go build.’ We’ve have to submit (projects) to ALDOT for approval. It’s going to burden ALDOT to approve all the projects.”
Commissioner Lindsey Allison asked Cole and Commissioner Tommy Edwards, chairperson of the county’s roads and transportation committee, to stay in contact about the projects.
“The whole commission doesn’t need to be in the minutiae, but we need not to be surprised,” Allison said.
Commissioner Corley Ellis thanked Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley for the ATRIP program, as it “fills a tremendous need we’ve had.”
Cole called the program a “breath of fresh air” under Bentley’s leadership.
“ATRIP will likely be in your vocabulary for your entire four years and beyond,” Cole told the commission.
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