Although we cannot yet drive by and see physical construction activity along the Northern Beltline route, 2012 brought significant accomplishments that should allow us to do exactly that in 2013.
On March 29, the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) officially approved the Federal Environmental Impact Study Reevaluation (FEISR), the most significant regulatory requirement in advancing the project to construction.
The FEISR incorporates all of the information in ALDOT’s prior 306-page Federal Environmental Impact Study (FEIS) and only adds any new information to the FEIS. The FEISR is a 1,480-page document that not only cleared the required regulatory and legal process of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and FHwA, but was also reviewed and approved by multiple other federal, state, and local agencies according to their areas of expertise.
In late June, ALDOT submitted the permit application to the U.S. Corps of Engineers (USCE). The permit is required to let construction on the 3.4-mile portion connecting AL Highway 79 and AL Highway 75. Although complete compilation of required data took several additional months, ALDOT is to be commended for the exceptional attention given to every detail for this project that ensures the Northern Beltline will be constructed in full compliance with regulations that protect and safeguard our region’s natural resources, general environmental quality, and drinking water sources.
On June 29, the entire U.S. Congress demonstrated its continued commitment to prioritize completion of the ADHS with inclusion of it as one of the few highway programs specifically identified in the new law. In fact, ADHS projects were given the unique benefit of 100% federal funding for a ten-year period, eliminating the 20% State match and freeing up an estimated $600 million of State highway funds for use by ALDOT on other projects as it deems needed and appropriate.
Perhaps even greater proof of Congress’ resoluteness to complete the ADHS system is its requirement of state departments of transportation to submit by mid-2013 a plan for the timely completing of its remaining ADHS projects.
Last year, we also welcomed two additional municipalities to the already impressive coalition of cities and counties – bringing the total to 41 — which adopted official resolutions of support for completion of the Northern Beltline. Governor Robert Bentley remains committed to beginning construction on the Beltline in 2013, as he publicly reaffirmed in his comments at the BBA Annual Meeting in December. We continue to work with our exceptional representatives in Washington, DC. Senator Shelby, Senator Sessions, and Congressman Bachus remain steadfast in their efforts to advance the Northern Beltline.
You will find highlights of the work of CRT during 2012 throughout this document. Please take the time to read everything included here and appreciate the amount of work contributed by many people in these achievements.
We appreciate your unfaltering commitment to ensuring the vast opportunities of the Northern Beltline become reality for us and for the generations that will follow us. The patience and perseverance you have shown without allowing the processes to diminish your support is admirable and deeply valued.
Mike Thompson, Chairman