MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) A state legislator who represents rural Washington County in southwest Alabama said schools, roads and infrastructure needs must be addressed in the area before the $3.7 billion ThyssenKrupp AG plant is completed.
The German steel plant is being built on the Mobile-Washington County line, approximately 25 mi. north of Mobile.
“I’m concerned that if we’re not prepared for it that it could end up being a negative thing, especially in rural southwest Alabama,” Rep. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, told the Press-Register newspaper in Mobile.
Keahey, a 27-year-old freshman legislator, said he’s excited about the jobs that the plant will bring to the area, but cautioned that area governments must be prepared for the growth and extra traffic the new plant will bring with it.
A lawyer, Keahey said the key issue of interest in his district is the construction of the new steel mill. He said he hopes Gov. Bob Riley will visit the area and hear the concerns of residents.
He said the condition of roads and bridges is a major concern. A recent report by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama showed there are 51 bridges in Washington County that received failing grades according to federal standards.
“The more and more traffic that is going to be on our rural roads is going to increase the need for repairs,” Keahey said.
He said overcrowded schools is another problem facing the area.
“A lot of our schools, especially in Washington County, are maxed out right now,” Keahey said. “With the need to educate more children, we’re going to have to have more teachers and possibly more bus drivers. And we’re going to have to have funds to do this with.”
Keahey said he hopes the building of the new steel plant will force state and federal officials to pay attention to the rural southwest Alabama area.
“Our needs haven’t been looked at as seriously as other areas of the state. I see this influx of population we are about to experience as more than a reason for us to receive the help we have been looking for,” Keahey said.