Residents Push for Link From I-20 to U.S. 431, Alabama 21

Mon April 23, 2007 - Southeast Edition

ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) Supporters of a Eastern Parkway linking Interstate 20 to the intersection of U.S. 431 and Alabama 21 must find a way to pay for it.

At a meeting March 29 in Anniston, elected officials met with Calhoun County residents urging completion of the parkway.

Alabama Department of Transportation officials at the meeting said finishing the project will cost $51 million, with $10.6 million in federal and local funds available.

It’s unclear how local officials will pay the remaining $40.4 million.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., told community leaders last year there will be no more federal money for the last stretch of the parkway. Rogers said the federal government has given $87 million to fund the parkway.

But state DOT officials said the department has received $66.2 million in federal money for the project and anticipates another $11.2 million over the next two years, for a total of $77.4 million.

Both sides said their numbers are accurate, but transportation officials said they were checking into the difference in the reports.

Members of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce Eastern Parkway Task Force discussed funding proposals, including a 1-cent sales tax increase, among other revenue measures, even a toll charge.

Task Force Chairman Anthony Humphries said the revenue would need to start coming by 2008.

Rep. Steve Hurst, D-Munford, said cities should issue a bond for the parkway, and make payments out of their own pockets.

“I think the 1-cent sales tax countywide is going to be a real problem,” Hurst said. “I don’t think the citizens are going to stand for it. They’ll tar and feather everybody in this room.”

Anniston Mayor Chip Howell said he wasn’t leaning toward any one way to pay for the road at this time.

“I’m still wide open,” Howell said.