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County approved for $8.5 million in ATRIP funding

On Wednesday Gov. Robert Bentley announced more than $372 million in additional funding for cities and counties participating in the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP).
Those totals included an astounding $8,548,464.69 allocated to Franklin County for various projects to be distributed among the different communities.
According to Franklin County Highway Engineer David Palmer, the third and final round of ATRIP funding was given to each county in one large, lump sum rather than specifying certain amounts for individual projects as was the case in rounds one and two.
Palmer said the reasoning for this is because the state could not fund every project request by each county, so they distributed one amount and left it up to county and city officials to decide which projects the money would go toward.
“The good thing is, we have already sat down with our county and municipal officials to determine which projects needed to be completed, so we’re a step ahead,” Palmer said.
“This was something we did before we even sent in our requests.”
Palmer said the total requests for Franklin County and the municipalities of Russellville, Red Bay and Phil Campbell totaled 15 bridge projects and about 145 miles of road resurfacing projects.
Palmer said the municipalities of Hodges and Vina had already applied for and received ATRIP funds for their necessary projects in the previous rounds.
“What we did was sit down with all the officials and come up with our major wish list of projects in the county that we wanted to complete,” Palmer said.
“Once we did that, we prioritized the projects and came up with a list of group one priorities, which were projects that absolutely had to get done.
“The total amount for all the projects we submitted was $11.5 million, so with the $8.5 million we received, it looks like we came up short by about $3 million.
“But when you look at just the list of group one priority projects, that total was about $9.4 million, so with the absolute necessary projects we needed to get done with this ATRIP money, we only came up less than $1 million short.
“This is truly fantastic in the grand scheme of things compared to what some of the other counties received.”
Palmer said even though county and city officials have already sat down and gone over the list of projects to be completed with this last round of ATRIP funding, they will all have to sit down again since they came up a little short on the funding to decide where to distribute the funds.
“We have our priority list, but even some of those projects will have to be cut back,” Palmer said.
“But I have no doubt everyone will be able to work together to make sure these funds are spent in the best way possible.
“The current county commission as well as the leadership in our municipalities have really worked together on this project and put aside political lines to do something that would benefit so many people in our county.
“It’s great to see leaders from across the county working together for the good of the people.”
ATRIP is the largest road and bridge improvement program in Alabama’s history and Bentley noted what a difference the program has made in the state already.
“ATRIP is making a difference in every county across the state by allowing much-needed road and bridge improvement projects to move forward,” Bentley said.
“As we make these improvements, we’re improving public safety, and we’re also helping attract more jobs. When companies look for places to build and expand and hire more people, they look for places that have good roads and bridges. Our roads and bridges will be much safer thanks to this program, and our communities will be in a better position to recruit more jobs.”
Palmer agreed that the ATRIP funds would be a major “game changer” in the way the county focuses on economic development.
“We have a great county with great people and wonderful resources,” Palmer said.
“Having nice, safe roads and bridges is just one more tool we can use to attract more industry into our county and help the area continue to grow.”
Before Wednesday’s announcement, 693 road and bridge improvement projects had already been approved under previous phases of ATRIP funding across the state.
Wednesday’s Phase III funding announcement will now pave the way for additional projects in all 45 counties receiving Phase III allocations.
About 80 percent of the funding for ATRIP projects comes from the use of GARVEE bonds, which allows the state to access future federal dollars to pay for road and bridge projects that are needed immediately. Local governments or local public-private partnerships provide the remaining 20 percent funding match.
“The ATRIP program is absolutely an unprecedented opportunity for local governments across the state and is one of the most-far reaching programs in our state’s history,” Palmer said.
“We are already seeing the benefits of this program right here in our county with project like the repaving of Jackson Avenue in downtown Russellville and the construction taking place on Gravel Hill Road and County Road 16, which is halfway complete.
“I can’t thank the governor enough for implementing this program. There is no way we could have completed most of these projects without these ATRIP funds.
“This is an incredible blessing and something I’m so thankful for. I have poured my heart and soul into this project and receiving $8.5 million in this round of funding was just more than I could have ever hoped for our county.
“We know how much our roads and bridges need to be repaired. And we all know that there will be more issues that need to be addressed even beyond what we’ll be able to do with this ATRIP money.
“But thanks to this, we are on our way to getting a majority of the major road issues we have fixed and being in a place where we can maintain our roads and bridges again.”