By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
Cullman County and the cities of Cullman and Good Hope will have to split the more than $6 million awarded this week in the final round of ATRIP funding.
Gov. Robert Bentley announced a total of $372 million in Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program funds Wednesday for 45 counties, bringing the statewide total in awarded projects to nearly $1 billion. Cullman County will receive $6,037,072.64, nearly twice the $3.7 million estimate local officials and legislators expected.
“We used a conservative preliminary estimate, but once the Department of Transportation made its calculations based on the amount of remaining funds available and county populations, we wound up with $6 million,” said Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, who serves on the state transportation committee.
All together, Cullman County and its cities have been awarded nearly $23.7 million in ATRIP funds from all three rounds.
Local leaders said they were thrilled by the latest ATRIP award, but they will now have to prioritize which projects to pursue. That’s because collectively, the county, Cullman and Good Hope submitted $8.9 million in projects, Bussman said. The $6 million will be turned over to the county commission which will be tasked with overseeing negotiations, he said.
“Everyone is going to have to sit down and work together to find a fair and equitable way to distribute the funds and decide which projects get priority,” Bussman said. “We have about a month to make those decisions, and then those projects have to be submitted back to ALDOT.”
Bussman said probably the most badly needed project is the replacement of a more than 60-year-old bridge on Convent Road, often called the “Waterfall Bridge,” which he called possibly the worst in the city of Cullman. The bridge is rated a 12.5 out of 100 on the state’s bridge safety scale.
“ALDOT has said they’re getting close to closing it,” Bussman said.
Officials estimate the bridge work to cost at least $1 million, though the ATRIP grant would cover the brunt of construction costs. The city’s remaining construction and design expenses could total about $500,000 by the time the project is complete.
Good Hope applied for funds to pave Day Gap Road from Beech Grove Road to Interstate 65, as well as Cullman County 587. The city’s cost for the resurfacing of Day Gap Road would be roughly $78,000, according to Mayor Corey Harbison, while work on CR-587 would cost approximately $120,000. If approved, Harbison said matching funds from the project would be paid for through an existing loan the city has.
“ATRIP has been good for us because without the funding, we would have to find a way to finance the projects ourselves,” Harbison said.
The county submitted five resurfacing projects in the final round, said Commissioner Darrell Hicks.
ATRIP is funded through federal bonds issued under the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE, bond program. That program allows states to borrow against their federal highway allotments in future years to finance immediate-need road project. The state puts up 80 percent of the cost of a project, and a city or county provides the remaining 20 percent.
Tiffeny Owens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-734-2131, ext. 135.