Jobs ride on road, air, broadband upgrades
Montgomery airport officials announced Monday that they will be offering direct flights between Washington DC and Montgomery starting on June 7, 2018 through American Airlines. Wochit
The interchange of Interstate 65 and Interstate 85 in Montgomery, Ala. on Thursday October 26, 2017. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)Buy Photo
The road to Montgomery’s auto manufacturing economy was paved, at least in part, by its possibilities as a transportation hub. Its central location and access to interstates helped bring Hyundai’s assembly plant here, and has kept a stream of new manufacturers coming in.
The condition of the roads themselves are less celebrated. A study by construction industry advocacy group TRIP earlier this year found that poor road conditions cost the average Montgomery driver nearly £1,300 a year in extra car costs, crashes and delays.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the city has several paving projects underway, but the city’s reach is limited.
Some projects, like the 50-year-old Interstate 85-65 interchange, are out of the city’s hands because they’re federal or state roadways. Others are just too costly, and even federal funding would require a local match to unlock.
“We don’t have the wherewithal within our city to be able to put up a 20 percent match,” he said. “We’re going to have to have some additional revenue.”
Strange would like to see that money come from a change to the state’s formula for how the oil and gas tax is distributed to give cities a higher percentage of the take.
“When this formula was established, most of the counties paved roads within the cities so they were getting the lion’s share of the funds,” he said.
Montgomery’s outer loop and I-85 interchange under construction on July 8, 2014. Alabama officials said they need £250 million to £300 million to finish the outer loop, which would help divert traffic from the city’s downtown. (Photo: Lloyd Gallman/Advertiser)
Meanwhile, the area is making its case for federal dollars to help extend the outer loop past Vaughn Road and on to U.S.
231. It was on a wish list of projects Alabama officials submitted to the White House in March amid the promise of more infrastructure funding. The state said it would need £250 million to £300 million to finish the project.
“Infrastructure is the lynchpin of being able to have development,” Strange said.
AT&T has expanded rural internet coverage of Montgomery County through upgrades to a tower in Pike Road. (Photo: Brad Harper)
Not far from that planned extension, county officials recently held a ceremony to welcome another kind of infrastructure, one they said should move up the priority list.
They gathered along U.S.
231 on the outskirts of Pike Road to cheer as AT&T unveiled two tower upgrades that it said will bring high-speed internet access to hundreds of homes and businesses in rural Montgomery County for the first time.
Chris Dunn of the Pike Road Town Council said it would mean more business opportunities for the area.
“When we were all growing up, you had to have power and water,” Dunn said. “Today, you have to have internet to survive as a business and just to operate.”
Montgomery County Commissioner Ronda Walker said the thought process has to change with the times in order to keep the county in the running for new jobs.
“We appreciate the need for roads and bridges,” Walker said. “We talk about that all the time.
“Infrastructure also includes broadband. We’ve got to expand broadband as part of any initiative we do because we’ll be stopped dead in our tracks without this kind of technology.”
Officials applaud the announcement of direct flights between Washington DC and Montgomery (Photo: Brian Edwards / Advertiser)
A few days later, city and county officials came together to celebrate progress on another prong of transportation: an expansion at the Montgomery Regional Airport. Starting June 7, the airport will offer direct flights to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.
The nation’s capital was No.
1 on a 2014 list of the most common final destinations for Montgomery travelers.
Officials said the new service connects Washington to Maxwell Air Force Base, but it also helps grow business by giving companies more flexibility when they visit.
“We do such a phenomenal job recruiting jobs and companies,” said County Commission Chairman Elton Dean. “We don’t want them to continue going to Atlanta and Birmingham, we want them to fly right here.”
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- ^ Alabama and other Gulf Coast states submit wish list of infrastructure projects (www.montgomeryadvertiser.com)
- ^ Towers bring internet to rural Montgomery County (www.montgomeryadvertiser.com)