DeKalb County may get some federal help in replacing Sligo bridge.
A spokesman for U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander said Friday, during a meeting with State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver at their offices in Nashville that efforts will be made to include the Sligo bridge project in the federal highway re-authorization appropriation, which must be passed by Congress and signed by the President. If approved, the bridge would be replaced, totally by federal funds. He says the Senator must first obtain some information from local officials before he can proceed with the request. "What we have coming up is the Highway Re-authorization Appropriation, and what Senator Alexander needs help with is, he needs some forms filled out to help us get in a position where he can submit a request for the $30 plus million dollars that are necessary to pay for the full bridge. The goal is to get this process moving so when the time comes to complete the highway bill, within the next six to twelve months, that Sligo bridge is in a good position to receive those federal funds."
Since Sligo bridge would be specifically included as a priority project in the bill, funds for it could not be diverted for other purposes. "This process would actually be spelled out in law and signed by the President. The way it works is it would be spelled out in the bill and voted on. It's a high priority project and would be listed so in the federal law. It's not that TDOT would not be involved in the actual construction because they would, but they would be required by law to work on it", according to the Alexander spokesman.
Meanwhile, $1.5 million has already been allocated for repairs to the existing Sligo bridge and for right of way acquisition under an appropriation sought by Senator Alexander last year. "There's already been $1.5 million appropriated for this project. It's under bridge repair so part of it will be used for right of way. The other part will be used for the repair of the existing bridge in order to keep it open so school buses won't have to drive around (take alternate routes). They could still keep the bridge active. That's really what that first slug of money is for. That was in the FY 2010 Senate Transportation Appropriation.", according to the Senator's spokesman.
Representative Weaver says she is grateful for Senator Alexander's help on this project "Being that it's a high priority project and that the money will definitely go to this project, that's very exciting to me because this is a specific request. I appreciate(Senator Alexander's representative) coming from Washington to our offices to get us up to snuff on where we are on it. I'm just excited that it's going to happen. We've always said it was. I want to again clearly state that I did not vote against the bridge. I'm also a believer that good things come to those people who wait. We have been working on this under the radar. We've been cooperating with local officials as well. We invited the mayor to be here this morning. I'm a team person and it takes a team to work on such a big project. I can't thank Senator Beavers enough and Lamar's office for coming out and us working on this. We are working together for the good of the people of DeKalb County and to keep this bridge open while the new one is being constructed. Again, I want to emphasis that we are working very hard. This is a high priority project. Washington now sees it as that so it's all good news."
State Senator Beavers added " A list of questions has been presented to us that they (Senator's office) needs answered. We're going to have to look to the locals to help us answer some of these questions, so we'll be getting in touch with them. We're excited to know that Senator Alexander is working with us and trying to help the people of DeKalb County. We'll continue to work on this project. We'll continue to work with all of our officials to get what we need."
Senator Alexander announced last August that he was seeking funds for Sligo bridge. The news release stated that "Federal funds for Sligo Bridge are included in a federal appropriations bill making it's way to the United States Senate"
Senator Alexander announced that the Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, includes significant funding for a number of mass transit, roadway, and airport improvements across Tennessee. The bill must now be considered by the full Senate" (which has now been approved)
In the August news release, Senator Alexander said the bill includes" $1.5 million for DeKalb County for the replacement of the US-70 bridge. Funding will be used to repair the US-70 bridge in DeKalb County. The current bridge is structurally sound, but was built in 1947 and is in serious need of repair. It is the only bridge across Center Hill Lake on the eastern end of DeKalb County and the only way for school buses and traffic to cross from the other side of the lake."
"This legislation funds important initiatives to improve transportation and economic development in Tennessee," Alexander said. "As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to ensure that Tennessee's federal tax dollars are used wisely to create jobs, upgrade our state's roadways and enhance the quality of life in our communities."
The FY10 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill includes funding for the following projects:
· $6 million for the Tennessee Public Transportation Association for statewide mass transportation programs. Funding will be used to purchase and improve mass transit systems across the state of Tennessee – including busing and light rail. Improved mass transit will reduce congestion in Tennessee's cities as well as help provide hospital transportation for rural Tennesseans.
· $1.5 million for Nashville International Airport for runway reconstruction. Funding will be used to upgrade a runway at Nashville International Airport so it can better accommodate larger freight and passenger aircraft to meet the air transport demands for Nashville, one of the South's fastest growing cities.
· $200,000 for Cocke County for improvements to Waterville Road. Funding will help repair the Waterville Road in Cocke County which is heavily impacted by tourists visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is partly within county limits.
· $1 million for the City of Gallatin for improvements to Airport Road. Funding will be used to redirect the airport road to make additional space for an expanded runway to accommodate increasing commercial aircraft traffic.
· $785,000 for the City of Jackson for improvements to East Chester Street. Funding will be used to improve East Chester Street and help spur redevelopment of East Jackson. East Chester Street was devastated by a tornado in May 2003.
· $1.5 million for DeKalb County for the replacement of the US-70 bridge. Funding will be used to repair the US-70 bridge in DeKalb County. The current bridge is structurally sound, but was built in 1947 and is in serious need of repair. It is the only bridge across Center Hill Lake on the eastern end of DeKalb County and the only way for school buses and traffic to cross from the other side of the lake.