Atmore, Poarch to benefit from ATRIP

Published 10:58 pm Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roads in Atmore and Poarch are among the more than 100 improvement projects to be funded under the first round of Gov. Robert Bentley’s recently announced Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement (ATRIP) initiative.

According to information released by the governor’s office, ATRIP is the largest road and bridge improvement program in Alabama history and is aimed at enhancing safety and quality of life for residents in communities across the state. The project is also expected to serve as an economic development tool through the updating of roads and bridges officials hope will aid the state in recruiting additional jobs from companies dependent on solid, modern infrastructure for the transportation of goods.

The first wave of the project, Bentley announced Thursday, will include work to resurface South Presley Street in Atmore, from U.S. 31 to Alabama 21, and to replace a bridge and resurface Atmosphere Road in Poarch.

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“From large cities to rural areas, the people of this state deserve reliable, safe roads and bridges,” Bentley said. “School buses should not have to be detoured around substandard bridges. Communities need help improving roads that are currently over capacity or in need of various safety improvements.”

Under the ATRIP program, which Bentley first unveiled in February, cities and counties were able to submit project proposals for the initial round of funding – 80 percent of which is provided by the sate of Alabama through the federal Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles Bond Program (GARVEE) bonds. Under the GARVEE system the state is able to access future federal funds in order to pay for road and bridge projects needed immediately. The remaining 20 percent of the cost of approved first phase projects must be provided by either local government or through a local public-private partnership. The ability of the applicant to cover the 20 percent gap also played a role in the approval of ATRIP projects.

All ATRIP submissions were first analyzed by the Alabama Department of Transportation. Eligible projects were then reviewed by an advisory committee, which, in conjunction with Bentley, made the final project funding approvals.
Bentley said the use of the GARVEE bonds was a logical avenue for funding integral roadway projects, while helping boost the state’s job market.

“By using GARVEE bonds, we are able to make much-needed improvements without raising taxes,” Bentley said.  “In addition, this program will create construction jobs across the state as projects move forward, and by making areas more attractive to prospective employers, the ATRIP program will help with the long-term recruitment of even more jobs in the future.”

The first phase projects in Atmore and Poarch are two of the improvement jobs approved in 61 of the 64 counties that applied. At least two additional rounds of funding are expected – one in the fall of 2012 and one in the spring of 2013.

Projects not selected in the initial phase of funding are eligible for submission during the second and third phases.

Projects approved in ATRIP’s first phase of funding range from rural to urban and include resurfacing, additional lanes, intersection upgrades, and 36 local bridge replacements.  According to the governor’s office, the 105 projects announced Thursday represent $138.5 million in funding during the initial round of ATRIP.

Improvements to Atmore’s Presley Street will cost a total of $513,893.60, with ATRIP providing $411,114.88, leaving the local cost at $102,778.72. Improvements to Atmosphere Road total $1,893, 601.50. Of that total ATRIP will provide $1,514, 881.20, leaving local costs at $378,720.30.

Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said the city submitted applications for all roads dubbed by the state as “collector” roads – or roads that shoulder a heavy amount of traffic and/or connect major state and U.S. highways. Of those roads, Shell said, only Presley was selected for first phase improvements.

“We applied for every one of the collector roads,” Shell said. “Medical Park, Presley and all of the others in town. The only one we had approved out of the requests we put in was Presley.”

Shell said while the approved work will be good for the city, he plans to continue to push for the approval of work to other collector roads during the second and third phases of the project.

“We’re absolutely going to put them in,” he said. “The city had no choice in the selection of the first street. That was done strictly by the state. The Presley Street work will be a plus, but we are going after the others.”