Jul 21 2006

Bill earmarks more for UAB $10 million for biomed complex brings 2007 total to $30 million

 The Birmingham News

By Mary Orndorff

An additional $10 million for the second phase of UAB's Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research complex was included in a federal spending bill that cleared a Senate committee Thursday, bringing the potential 2007 total for the massive new facility to $30 million in federal aid.

''UAB's emphasis on research will continue to gain prominence thanks to the construction of this facility,'' said Sen. Richard Shelby, for whom the building is named. ''The most up-to-date technology is critical in UAB's quest to remain on the forefront of emerging medical research and to make important strides in the prevention and treatment of diseases.''

The $10 million approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee would go through the Health Resources and Services Administration, the primary federal agency for improving access to health care for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable. An initial $20 million approved last week would come from the National Institute for Standards and Technology, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that has a special account for construction of research facilities.

Both spending bills are a few steps from becoming law, and figures could change in negotiations between the House and Senate in coming weeks. That the same building could receive a total of $30 million from two federal spending bills in the same year is further sign of Shelby's reach as a senior member of the appropriations committee, where earmarking federal money for local projects has been a booming business.

The second phase of the complex at the University of Alabama at Birmingham will cost $120 million and add 300,000 square feet of space for research into neurological diseases. The building's second floor will be for treating neurology and psychiatry outpatients, which satisfies the Health Resources and Services Administration mission of providing health care for the disadvantaged, said Richard Marchase, vice president of research at UAB.

Last year, Shelby added $20 million for the second phase from the National Institute for Standards and Technology, but UAB was allowed to divide that money in half, using $10 million to finish the seventh and 12th floors of the first phase, Marchase said. The first phase, at 18th Street and University Boulevard, cost $140.8 million, including $60 million in federal funds.

$10 million for UA

The bill approved Thursday also includes $10 million for a 70,000-square-foot health services facility at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

A separate transportation, housing and urban development bill includes $3.5 million for a runway extension at the Birmingham International Airport, $6 million for the new federal building in Tuscaloosa, $400,000 for Greene County Courthouse Square preservation, and $200,000 for Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park, according to a list provided by Shelby's office.