CAMDEN – The Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission supports construction of the West Alabama Highway.

The commission, a regional planning and development organization representing 10 counties in the southwest portion of the state, presented Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper a resolution expressing its endorsement of the project at its annual meeting held in Thomasville.

The West Alabama Highway will create a four-lane, north-south highway connecting Tuscaloosa and Mobile. The project has been discussed for decades as a way to also bring economic opportunities to many rural communities.

“We all live in this rural region and fully understand the longtime need for this project,” said Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission Executive Director John Clyde Riggs.

Pointing to the more than 40 local officials in attendance at the meeting, Riggs told Cooper, “This is a room full of warriors for the West Alabama Highway! There is no turning back. This project is critical for our region and we are all in the fight with you.”

From Fayette to Mobile, dozens of mayors, county commissioners, legislators and economic development leaders have recently spoken out in support of the project at news conferences in Tuscaloosa and Thomasville.

Senator Gerald Allen said the West Alabama Highway “creates opportunities for rural Alabama for new jobs and new industry to come.” Allen, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, urged the state’s leaders to continue supporting the project. “Stay the course, don’t look back. Look forward because this will help rural Alabama.”

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the West Alabama Highway is important to Mobile, especially as the Port of Mobile is expanding. Completing construction of the West Alabama Highway offers a new option — other than congested Interstate 65 — for goods being transported north from the port.

With the port expansion, “you can just visualize the increased commerce that we will have, and already we have traffic congestion on 65. And, yes, there needs to be things done to improve 65,” said Mayor Stimpson. “But it may the quickest and the least expensive thing to do is to fix 43 so that we have two routes coming out of Mobile for one of the biggest economic engines that we have for the entire state to be able to go north to connect to Tuscaloosa, I-22, on to Florence.”

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said, “This project, as laid out by the governor and the Legislature, begins to turn the page on much-needed investment in an area of the state that’s gone decades without it.”

Fayette Mayor Rod Northam noted that because there is no four-lane highway through the western part of the state, many residents in north Alabama opt to travel through Mississippi to reach Alabama’s beaches.

“That’s tax dollars we’ve lost because they’re going to stop and get food, they’re going to stop and get gas and they’re going to come down another state and not come down a corridor that connects, hopefully one day, the Shoals to Mobile,” said Mayor Northam.

Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day said, “If we prepare ourselves today and do the right thing by working hard to make sure this happens, we will lift up the state of Alabama higher than it’s ever seen before. The goals achieved and the things that can be achieved will be exponential.”

Representative Chris England said the state’s willingness to build the highway sends a positive signal to business and industry.

“When the governor of the state of Alabama says we’re going to invest millions of dollars in an area of the state that has been historically neglected and denied this sort of opportunity, it’s a signal to other people that is it OK to invest in West Alabama as well,” England said. “This is an opportunity, an invitation to bring some of that investment back.”

The Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission represents Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Sumter, Washington, and Wilcox counties.