Jackson County settles on funding for its transportation projects

Jackson County settles on funding for its transportation projects

January 21st, 2013 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

A pickup truck crosses Mud Creek on the bridge on County Road 213 in Jackson County, Ala., on Thursday. The bridge is one of three up for rehabilitation or replacement.

Photo by Ben Benton/Times Free Press.

TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

Costs of transportation projects in Jackson County could tally $10 million or more by the time all three phases of work are completed over the next few years.

Phase 1: $5 million

Phase 2: $4.49 million applied for

Phase 3: Applications due May 31

Source: Jackson County government

Jackson County, Ala., has settled on a funding source for multimillion-dollar transportation projects after shuffling through ideas in hopes of lightening the burden on county taxpayers.

County leaders recently discussed switching funding sources from the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program to the Rural Assistance Match Program.

Jackson County officials say Rural Assistance funding is capped at $5 million but requires no local funding match, while Transportation Rehabilitation money can be more plentiful but requires a 20 percent local match.

Transportation Rehabilitation funding already is secured on the first phase of county projects and it will be the funding source for other projects under three of the county's municipal governments, according to County Commission Chairman Matthew Hodges.

Rural Assistance also would not fully fund all three phases with a total cost well over $10 million, officials said.

"We voted to go with the ATRIP program because there were some towns in the county that wanted to participate," Hodges said last week of funding for upcoming phase 2 projects that could total almost $4.5 million, with the county kicking in almost $1 million in its match.

A decision by the county to use Rural Assistance funding would have limited municipalities' applications for Transportation Rehabilitation money, according to officials.

Even though Transportation Rehabilitation requires a local match, officials believe the county's public works budget can cover it, Hodges said.

"The second round is where the funding issue comes into play," he said. "We think we can do that within the budget for public works for our part. Depending on the project, we'd be able to spread it over this year and next year."

Hodges doesn't think the Rural Assistance funding idea will resurface for phase 3.

"We're committed to going with ATRIP," he said. "That's the best decision for everybody in the county."

Work is starting on one of four projects in phase 1, and state officials will decide on phase 2 projects across the state on Jan. 25, county engineer Philip Widner said.

Applications for third-phase projects are due to the state at the end of May, he said. The state will announce the phase 3 project list on July 10.