Making progress on I-759 will take the whole team

March 2, 2015 chris
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Many times in my life, I’ve seen that teamwork really does work. Whether it’s in sports, business or government, every member of the team gets together and comes to an agreement – a little give from some people and a little take from others. For teamwork to really work, however, everyone involved, including the leaders, must be willing to work together. Teamwork does not work when one or more of the people involved doesn’t make an effort. Unfortunately for Gadsden and the I-759 project, that is exactly what is happening.

The I-759 project received a lot of attention in the press last week. Most of it was encouraging, as our local elected leaders and I came out in support of taking action and renewed our call for progress.

But then the press asked our U.S. Congressman, Robert Aderholt, what he would do to help.

Congressman Aderholt is Alabama’s most senior congressman. Now serving his 10th term in U.S. Congress, Rep. Aderholt serves on the House Committee on Appropriations, which is a very powerful committee and, most importantly, is the committee that makes decisions regarding funding the operation of the federal government.

Our congressman literally sits on the committee that decides the highway and transportation budget. This means that our congressman is in a better position than anyone to secure federal funding for I-759. Making the situation even better for us, Alabama’s own Congresswoman Martha Roby also sits on the Appropriations Committee. With her help and his experience and seniority, Congressman Aderholt should have no problems getting a little extra money for I-759. It is the job we elected him do these past 20 years, and the job he is in prime position to fulfill.

But when the press asked the congressman what he was doing to help with I-759, his exact words were, “We’re to a point right now where federal funding for earmarked projects has been taken off the board” and that his “hands are tied.” Then he went on to shift the blame to state leaders, saying we needed to lobby the Alabama Department of Transportation and the governor.

How is this possible? How is it that our congressman, with 20 years of experience and being a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, is unable to secure federal funding for I-759?

Only Congressman Aderholt can secure federal funds. To say he can’t do anything is a total cop-out. Senator Richard Shelby has been a complete champion for our state in Washington, having secured millions of dollars over the years for infrastructure projects like I-759.

It’s also not just a problem with securing federal funding.

As The Gadsden Times reported, the other major problem has been getting plans that would pass federal approval. However, no one ever clarifies what federal approval is, exactly. So you would think it would be our congressman’s job to step in and help coordinate the federal agencies with the state department that is drawing the plans to make sure everything is in order. After all, having been in congress for 20 years, Congressman Aderholt should know better than anyone how to navigate Washington and get approval for projects like this. I find it hard to believe he couldn’t offer more guidance to the Alabama Department of Transportation on how to draft a proposal that would exceed federal expectations. But Congressman Aderholt hasn’t.

Completing projects like I-759 require a team effort. Yes, state leaders need to work together to secure state funding. But no one is in a better position than our Congressman to secure the federal funds and to make sure our plans meet federal guidelines. But instead of being a team player, Congressman Aderholt has been absent from the table.

Etowah County is the largest county in Congressman Aderholt’s district. As such, we have a great deal of traffic coming through. The extension of I-759 should be a priority for him, like it is for myself and the rest of Etowah County’s elected leaders.

Congressman Aderholt has now served two-thirds as long as former congressman, Tom Bevill, did. But if he accomplished a tenth of what Congressman Bevill did for our district, most of us would be happy.

It’s time for our congressman to do his part and join the team. He was elected to serve the people of Etowah and to fight for the best interests of this district, and I-759 is in the best interest of this district. The people of Gadsden have supported Rep. Adherolt for 20 years. We deserve his support now.