County hopes aid for roads comes from feds

Published 4:06 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

County officials will have plans in place for at least three federally funded roads if money from President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed economic stimulus plan trickles down into the local level.

The county commission has authorized county engineer Dennis McCall to begin preliminary planning for resurfacing approximately 15.25 miles of roadway in Butler County that meet current federal funding requirements. Projects included are:

Starlington Rd., from State Highway 106 to County Road 38, (7.9 miles).

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Manningham Rd., from County Road 71 to County Road 54, (3.14 miles).

Ridge Rd., from Dickens Field Rd. to County Road 42, (4.22 miles).

The projects were included in a five-year plan which McCall submitted to commissioners during Thursday’s workshop meeting, but hopes are that money from President-elect Obama’s estimated $1 trillion stimulus package will find its way into Butler County. President-elect Obama and some Congressional leaders have said the economic stimulus package is needed to help pull the country out of a recession and the nation’s infrastructure – including its roads – are expected to benefit.

State or county officials do not know yet what the funding eligibility requirements are because there’s still speculation on what the stimulus plan will entail. But state transportation officials have already prepared at least 16 major highway projects worth $877 million, according to The Birmingham News.

County governments are following suit.

“I think it’s necessary to have plans in place,” said McCall. “If funding becomes available and we are eligible then we are ahead of the game.”

The estimated cost combined for all three projects is $2.75 million. The three roads – classified as major collectors due to the high volume in traffic – are the only ones in Butler County eligible for federal funds, which amounts to approximately $500,000 per year, said McCall.

“I’m hoping our new President can follow through on some of his promises,” said Commissioner Jerry Hartin (Dist. 1). “Our roads are deteriorating at a rapid rate.”

Not all commissioners were happy with the proposals.

Commissioner Frank Hickman (Dist. 3) said there are roads in his district needing immediate attention, but they are not eligible for federal aid because the roads are classified as minor collectors.

A frustrated Hickman voted no to the last project proposal.

“I certainly do not oppose the any improvement of our roads,” he said. “At the same time I have to think about the people of District 3. I understand the theory that more people travel on major collectors, but we need to work to find funding for our other roads.”

McCall said the projects are proposals only and said the commission would have final approval over funding expenditures should the county receive any federal aid.