Members of Alabama's congressional delegation requested funds totaling more than $772 million in earmarks for use in statewide spending projects as part of the mammoth $1.7 billion omnibus funding bill passed shortly before Christmas by the U.S. House and Senate.
As of Dec. 28, President Biden was poised to put his signature on the bill.
The passage of the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 capped a chaotic week as party leaders dashed to avoid a government shutdown and an intensifying winter storm just days before Christmas.
The spending bill, which includes a pile of high-profile year-end priorities from nearly $40 billion in Ukraine aid to an election law overhaul, will be Democrats' final legislative act before surrendering their House majority to Republicans in January.
New construction projects across the country will now have the funds to get under way because of the bill's passage, including several in Alabama favored by lawmakers representing the state in Washington.
Sen. Richard Shelby Brings ‘Significant' Funding to State
The domestic-related projects to be funded in Alabama do not include defense or space-related items, reported AL.com; rather, several are aimed at new construction.
The largest single domestic-related project in Alabama is $200 million requested by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and a lead negotiator on the omnibus bill along with close friend and Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.
According to Shelby's office, the $200 million will go to the Intermodal and Terminal Expansion Project, which includes:
- Rail infrastructure and improvements in north Alabama, along with the construction of an inland container intermodal transfer facility.
- Expansion of the Port of Mobile container terminal, including the addition of a container ship berth and handling yard in Mobile, as well as replacement, refurbishment and upgrades to existing piers.
- Intermodal and freight rail infrastructure improvements at Birmingham, where new track, switches and related appurtenances to improve both freight and intermodal rail traffic flow will be installed to increase capacity, improve service reliability, and establish container intermodal rail service between the Port of Mobile and Birmingham.
Shelby earmarked another $100 million for the replacement of Tuscaloosa's Woolsey Finnell Bridge over the Black Warrior River on McFarland Boulevard. The new structure will have six traffic lanes along with acceleration and deceleration lanes.
"Throughout my career, I have done everything in my power to bring success to my home state," he said in a statement Dec. 22. "The funding for Alabama in this package is significant in terms of the impact it will have on communities and the overall statewide economy for generations to come."
In addition, U.S. Representatives Robert Aderholt, Jerry Carl, Mike Rogers and Terri Sewell all made funding requests for other Alabama construction projects, according to AL.com.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Reps. Mo Brooks, Barry Moore and Gary Palmer did not earmark projects for the spending bill, noted OpenTheBooks.com, an online group dedicated to making government spending transparent.
Altogether, a total of 69 domestic-related projects across the state were earmarked by members of the Alabama delegation. Shelby was responsible for helping to fund the most expensive ones, which included the following building efforts:
- A request for $76 million to construct a new biomedical research building at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Heersink School of Medicine.
- $45 million for the University of Alabama (UA) at Tuscaloosa to build the Center for Hydrologic Computing, which will support CIROH and its co-located partners, the National Weather Center (NWC) and the USGS Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility (HIF), in hydrologic research, education and forecasting.
- $50 million for the city of Mobile to provide a revolving loan fund for commercial development and redevelopment of its downtown area.
Among other higher-profile building projects that secured federal funds:
- Carl lobbied for $3.5 million to upgrade the Spanish Fort Causeway across Mobile Bay, despite the fact the congressman voted against the funding package in the end.
- The most expensive project beyond Shelby's was $15 million secured by Sewell for a commercial vehicle inspection gate at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery.
- Rogers' top project was $10 million for the Model Regional Operations Center at Auburn University to "enhance the cyber security of the U.S. Electricity Sector Southeast Regional DOE Cyber Command Center."
- Aderholt's efforts brought in $3 million for the University of North Alabama's community STEM facility design and construction.
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