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Alabama Service Assistance Patrol seeks financial help

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — The Alabama Service Assistance Patrol, which has duties including helping out stranded motorists, could use a hand in financial matters, officials say.

Patrol employees roam Birmingham interstates in bright yellow trucks, helping to direct traffic around wrecks and removing debris from roads.

It has been run by the Alabama Department of Transportation and the state troopers since 1997, and is $900,000 in debt.

Money to support ASAP has come through federal air quality funds administered by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which must approve all federal transportation funds for Jefferson and Shelby counties.

MPO's Bill Foisy said that air quality money has run out and last month three MPO committees approved using surface transportation money to keep ASAP rolling. The full MPO will take up the matter Aug. 9, Foisy said.

DOT officials have asked the MPO committees to change the way ASAP is funded, to pay its debt and to provide funds to run ASAP through 2008. That would cost about $4.4 million.

MPO officials say funding ASAP will not take money away from other area highway projects.

ASAP expanded its coverage area in 2001 and ran into debt when the budget was not increased.

"We've got to keep the program running," said DOT's Lance Taylor.

The ASAP service has 18 operators and 10 trucks. Last year, the program made 23,037 service stops to assist Birmingham's motoring public and has made 193,011 service stops since 1997.

Motorists can reach ASAP at └HP in emergencies or at 322-4601.

Brian Davis, Birmingham DOT division engineer, said the program could expand further if the funding comes through. "We think we may be in a position to do that," he said. "We are going to look at it."

Mobile has the only other ASAP service in the state. The unit there has five trucks and one wrecker, said DOT's Randy Braden.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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