Motorists, businesses feel caught between lanes in political fight

Motorists, businesses feel caught between lanes in political fight
Due to a freeze by ALDOT, many Madison Co. road projects lay in limbo. (Source: WAFF)
Due to a freeze by ALDOT, many Madison Co. road projects lay in limbo. (Source: WAFF)
The billboard was placed by Senator Bill Holtzclaw, who defended its placement Monday. (Source: WAFF)
The billboard was placed by Senator Bill Holtzclaw, who defended its placement Monday. (Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Alabama Senator Bill Holtzclaw on Monday defended his decision to put up a billboard questioning Governor Bentley's decision to raise taxes.

He says there is nothing derogatory in the message on the billboard, and that's why he's surprised at the backlash from Montgomery over it.

Because of the billboard, ALDOT leaders froze road projects in Madison and Limestone County.

With no set timeline for the Huntsville-Madison road projects to be completed, drivers and businesses feel like they are being left out to dry. Many people say they are frustrated and feel caught in the middle of a political fight.

"A political debate over it all, that is what is dictating (construction). It is not really affecting them, it is affecting the people who live here more," said Katherine Edwards, who works at a nearby boutique.

Huntsville and the state had plans to widen both Jeff Road and Highway 72 West. At this point, there is no timetable for getting them done.

Edwards has a front row seat to the daily congestion at the Highway 72-Jeff Road intersection. She works at Epiphany Boutique, and says leaving at closing time can be a nightmare.

With new construction, she estimates it will only get worse.

"With more homes going up and more people moving to Madison, you are going to need the roads done," said Edwards.

In a statement, Mayor Tommy Battle seemed more confident the projects will get completed.

"Highway 72 west is very important to Madison, Huntsville and the North Alabama area, and we will continue to work with Governor Bentley and ALDOT Director Cooper on this project," Battle said. "At this point, we will wait until after the legislative session to have conversations with the Governor and Cooper about 72 West. The Governor and ALDOT Director have been very good to North Alabama, and I don't expect that to change. We will continue working with them on our road needs."

The city of Huntsville agreed to pay half of the $30 million price tag of the Highway 72 West project. That money will stem from the recent one-cent raise in sales tax.

The city will spend $25 million from those funds per year for the next five years toward the cumulative $250 million roads agreement.

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