Mar 12 2009

Bill has more than $90 million for West Alabama

By Michael James

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed by President Barack Obama on Wednesday, includes more than $90 million in earmarks for West Alabama, with more than half going to the University of Alabama.

In addition, the $410 billion omnibus measure provides $34 million for West Alabama projects previously approved by Congress in the 2005 federal highway and transit reauthorization act.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., secured most of the earmarks for the region, including the largest single appropriation of $30 million for a building in the science and engineering corridor on the UA campus.

Cathy Andreen, UA director of media relations, said the money is designated for the third of four buildings in the corridor.

The first, Shelby Hall, opened in 2004 and the second, now under construction, is slated to open in time for the 2009 fall semester.

“We must attract young students to math, science and engineering to effectively compete in the global economy,” said Shelby.

“If we do not make the right investments now, it will later cost us much more later, both fiscally and strategically.”

The second-largest earmark, $25 million, also obtained by Shelby, will complete the funding needed for the federal building planned for downtown Tuscaloosa.

Shelby secured $10.6 million for a weather research center and $9.5 million for a health sciences center, both at UA, and $7.5 million toward the relocation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintenance facility from the riverfront in downtown Tuscaloosa to a site west of the city.

In all, the omnibus measure includes $92.8 million for West Alabama. Of that, $51.9 million will go to UA.

“We are grateful to Sen. Shelby for his efforts to provide funding for projects at the University of Alabama that will support education and economic development in the state,” Andreen said.

The funding for the $34 million in previously authorized transportation projects includes $6.25 million for the eastern bypass in Tuscaloosa, which will eventually connect Interstate 20/59 with U.S. Highway 82 West in Northport, and $22.5 million toward the planning, design and construction of the east-west highway corridor between Montgomery and Cuba in Sumter County.