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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Squeaking wheel gets the grease, sometimes

Proving that U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer's public criticism of the Riley administration for delaying road projects got results might be difficult.

In any event, long-sought road improvements did seem to show progress after he told an Athens audience of his frustration at helping get federal funds and not seeing them put to use.

"We get you enormous amounts of money and all we get from you is what you can't do," he said of the state Department of Transportation.

The recent jab at the Riley administration wasn't the first time for the Democratic congressman from Huntsville to go after what he sees as stalling in Montgomery.

The congressman is pushing several projects outside the Huntsville area because the area needs them, and probably because he is sensitive to criticism that the Rocket City seems to get more of the road funds.

He specifically mentioned $4.3 million he helped get in Washington for an interchange at Interstate 65 and Browns Ferry Road that will cost $5.5 million.

Then there are the two Decatur projects that appear stalled. But state officials told the Metropolitan Planning Organization in Decatur last week that the DOT is ready to move on extending I-565 into Decatur, making Alabama 20 safer while it does, and widening Beltline Road.

State officials said a contract for widening the Beltline from Danville Road Southwest to Alabama 24 is to be awarded in April.

District Engineer Johnny Harris said he expects a consultant to get started "soon" on picking a corridor for the interstate extension. But he said the study could take more than a year to complete.

Members of Congress don't usually jump on state officials, so for Mr. Cramer to go public with his comments suggests the level of frustration this region feels in seeing progress on much needed roads.

Federal funds usually come in the form of matching money, so the state sometimes has to scramble to find its share. Yet the procrastination on the I-65 interchange at Browns Ferry Road makes the congressman's point. With almost 80 percent of the cost coming from Washington, Montgomery should have long ago found $1.2 million to fully fund the project.

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