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Biden squanders $369 million in tax dollars to revive a ‘zombie’ highway in Alabama

North of Birmingham, a gravel road bed slices through a series of steep ridges, part of a stalled effort to carve a 52-mile freeway around the rural fringes of Alabama’s largest city.

Construction stopped five years ago on the road, dubbed the Birmingham Northern Beltline, after federal funding ran out. Critics have labeled the project a “dinosaur,” a “zombie” and a “black hole”. Barely a mile of it has been started, and Alabama officials haven’t provided the billions it would take to finish it.

But the bulldozers could soon be moving again, thanks to U.S. taxpayers. At least $369 million in federal funding for the Beltline is headed Alabama’s way from a massive infrastructure package approved by Congress in November. That $1 trillion deal – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – allowed Joe Biden to fulfill a campaign promise to fix the nation’s crumbling bridges, roads and airports.

It’s also a big win for Alabama’s senior U.S. senator, Richard Shelby, a Republican who has worked for decades to carve out Washington dollars for the Beltline. Shelby voted “no” on Biden’s infrastructure package, arguing that it should have included military projects. The Beltline will get its funding all the same.

Shelby declined to comment for this story.

Other Beltline supporters portray the federal support as money still owed to Alabama from Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s 1960s War on Poverty, which promised to help impoverished residents of the Appalachian mountains. At the southern end of that range lie the blue-collar exurbs and rural hamlets north of Birmingham.

“This is the continuation of a promise made,” said Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer of the Birmingham Business Alliance, an economic development group.

Opponents of the Beltline, meanwhile, are incensed that a gusher of cash is set to revive a dormant project that even local planning officials once ranked as a middling priority. Environmentalists say the Beltline would encourage sprawl and threaten wild areas – the antithesis of Biden’s green agenda.

“It’s a true dinosaur of a pork barrel project,” said Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a local environmental group. “It’s a perfect example of what shouldn’t be happening with this new money.”

Biden’s administration is writing the check, but it has little control over Alabama’s project. “It is up to state departments of transportation to make decisions to move projects forward,” said Nancy Singer, a spokesperson for the Federal Highway Administration.

PHANTOM FREEWAY

The Beltline isn’t the only controversial aspect of Biden’s infrastructure deal. Many Democrats groused that it favors freeways over transit, while some Republicans derided it as a wasteful grab bag of Democratic priorities.

Alabama’s phantom freeway might never have made it past the blueprint stage if not for Shelby, a Birmingham native who has served in Congress since 1979. His name adorns government facilities across Alabama, a testament to his skill at steering federal dollars to a state where household income ranks 46th of the 50 U.S. states.

Starting around the turn of the century, Shelby and other members of Alabama’s congressional delegation secured money for the Beltline through “earmarking,” a budget process that ensured the highway got dedicated funding without having to compete with other projects.

But the real breakthrough came in 2003, when Shelby got the Beltline added to the Appalachian Development Highway System, a road network aimed at reducing isolation in the mountainous region stretching from northern Alabama to western New York. The system was largely complete at that point, so Shelby’s move ensured Alabama would get a larger share of the dollars going to that network.

Then came a series of corruption scandals that spurred federal lawmakers to crack down on what many saw as wasteful spending nationwide. Congress banned earmarks in 2010. Two years later, it eliminated funding for the Appalachian highway system amid criticism by legislators such as Representative Jared Polis, a Democrat who now serves as governor of Colorado, who called the Beltline a “zombie highway” and the “Alabama Porkway.”

With those two funding streams cut, the Beltline had to compete for money on its own merits. But the highway was not deemed particularly urgent by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham. In a 2006 report, it ranked the Beltline 36th out of 54 transportation proposals, concluding it would do little to ease traffic congestion.

Beltline proponents say the road could help the thinly populated northern exurbs draw the sorts of shopping malls and housing developments that have proliferated to the south of the city since the 1970s. But the Alabama Department of Transportation in 2012 estimated that, once completed, the Beltline would boost the population in nearby towns by just 1.5%.

Environmental groups in 2011 sued unsuccessfully to stop the project, saying the Beltline would harm wildlife like the vermilion darter fish, which is found nowhere else in the world. The highway would cross 125 streams and require construction teams to level more than 4,000 acres (1,619 hectares) of forest.

But business groups and dozens of local politicians continued to advocate for the road. By the time it broke ground in 2014, Federal Highway Administration figures indicated that, at a cost of $5.4 billion, it would be the priciest highway project in the country on a per-mile basis, though subsequent estimates have been lower. State officials estimated at the time it would take 40 years to complete.

Two years later, construction ground to a halt when federal money ran out. At that point, $162 million had been spent to produce a partially built, 1.3-mile (2 km) stretch of roadway.

Most U.S. highways are built with a mix of federal and state money. But Alabama chose not to tap state accounts for the Beltline, instead focusing on maintaining existing roads and expanding capacity elsewhere. No work has been done since.

“People are tired of dribbling money into a black hole,” said Sarah Stokes, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which opposes the project.

On a recent weekday afternoon, signs of decay were evident at the construction site near Palmerdale, a hamlet of 5,400 residents 17 miles (27 kilometers) northeast of Birmingham. Rainstorms had etched gullies into the gravel roadbed, and a 20-foot-tall (6 meters) chinaberry tree sprouted from a concrete retaining wall at the top of a ridge. Tire tracks, trash and a bullet-riddled tin can littered the site.

BACK ON TRACK

But patience – and seniority – pay off in Washington. Shelby got funding renewed for the Appalachian highway network in 2019, when he headed the powerful Senate committee that handles spending.

Then came the bipartisan infrastructure package. Lawmakers from Appalachian states, led by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, inserted $1.25 billion for the highway network into the deal. Alabama is due to get $369 million, the largest share.

Much more will be needed. The Appalachian Regional Commission, a government body, estimated last year that it would cost $3.1 billion to finish the Beltline, and the state said in 2019 that it would take until 2045 to complete just one-third of the road. Experts say such estimates can fluctuate widely due to changing labor costs, interest rates and other factors.

As before, Alabama does not plan to put its own money into the project. Budget experts say that is telling.

“It’s not that critical of a project,” said Steve Ellis, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington watchdog group. “Otherwise the state and local interests would have found a way to fund this.”

Birmingham-area officials say they are negotiating for the state and local governments to chip in. Stan Hogeland, mayor of Gardendale, a city of 16,000 residents along the Beltline’s path, believes the road could speed commute times and attract manufacturers serving the state’s auto industry.

“I hope it hurries up and gets through,” Hogeland said.

Others see it as yet another highway designed to steer investment away from Black-majority cities such as Birmingham.

Anna Brown, an activist who sits on an advisory board for the planning commission, said it would be better to send the money back to Washington.

“Everything free ain’t always good for you,” Brown said of the federal funds. “Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s going to be beneficial.”

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone and Marla Dickerson)

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Biden squanders $369 million in tax dollars to revive a ‘zombie’ highway in Alabama is written by Wolf Daily for wolfdaily.com

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Former Democrat Tops NH Trump VP Poll

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In an electrifying and unexpected development, a new poll from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center reveals that former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii tops the list of preferred running mates for former President Donald Trump. This strategic choice underscores Trump’s commitment to broadening his appeal and strengthening his base with an unconventional but highly effective candidate.

Tulsi Gabbard, who initially ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, courageously left her party two years later to become an independent. Now, she emerges as the favorite among nearly a quarter (24%) of New Hampshire voters who are not supporting President Biden. Gabbard’s ability to connect with a diverse electorate and her staunch opposition to the far-left agenda make her a powerful ally for Trump.

Gabbard’s support stands seven points ahead of biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, indicating a strong preference for Gabbard’s unique blend of political independence and principled leadership. This shows that voters are looking for leaders who are willing to stand up against the establishment and fight for American values.

Ramaswamy, along with other notable figures like Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have endorsed Trump, yet Gabbard’s lead suggests a deeper resonance with voters seeking a fresh and unifying voice. Her conservative principles, military background, and dedication to freedom and the Constitution make her an ideal running mate for Trump.

Trump’s consideration of Gabbard is a testament to his strategic thinking and commitment to broadening his appeal. Gabbard, a veteran of the Iraq War and an officer in the Hawaii National Guard, brings a wealth of experience and a compelling personal story as the first Samoan-American elected to Congress. Her transition from a progressive Democrat to an independent has been marked by her steadfast dedication to fundamental freedoms, resonating with many conservatives who feel disenfranchised by the current political climate.

In a Fox News town hall in February, Trump hinted that Gabbard was on his short list for running mates. Her praise for Trump, acknowledging his resilience and willingness to fight against the Washington establishment, underscores a shared commitment to challenging the status quo and defending American values against the encroachment of socialism and government overreach.

Gabbard’s familiarity with New Hampshire, a crucial swing state, adds another layer of strategic advantage. Her presence in the state during her 2020 presidential run and her support for Republican candidates in 2022 have cemented her popularity among voters who are tired of the same old politics and crave genuine change.

By considering Gabbard as a running mate, Trump demonstrates his ability to think outside traditional party lines and appeal to a broader coalition. This bold move could be the key to uniting the nation behind his campaign, bringing together a diverse group of voters eager for a leader who prioritizes American values and freedoms.

As the 2024 election approaches, the prospect of a Trump-Gabbard ticket promises an exciting and dynamic campaign. This powerful combination of leadership, experience, and dedication to conservative principles is poised to capture the imagination and support of Americans from all walks of life, ensuring a strong and united front against the progressive agenda threatening our nation’s future.

 

POLL: Would you support Tulsi Gabbard for VP?

 

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Rubio Comes Out For Mass Deportations

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In a powerful and assertive appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) voiced strong support for former President Donald Trump’s commitment to mass deportation, calling for dramatic action to address the escalating illegal immigration crisis. Rubio’s remarks come at a critical juncture as many conservatives believe the unchecked influx of illegal immigrants threatens the very fabric of American society.

Responding to host Kristen Welker’s query about Trump’s proposed migrant detention camps and plans for deporting over 11 million undocumented immigrants, Rubio underscored the necessity of such measures, stating that the actual numbers have surged far beyond past estimates. “Eleven million, that was the number ten years ago. We’re talking upwards of 25 to 30 million,” Rubio declared, highlighting the severe underestimation of the crisis by prior administrations and the urgent need to address the reality on the ground.

“The answer to your question is yes,” Rubio affirmed. “We cannot absorb 25, 30 million people who entered this country illegally. What country on earth would tolerate that? We don’t even know who most of these people are.” Rubio’s remarks underscore the critical importance of national security and the impracticality of vetting individuals from nations with unreliable documentation systems. He pointed out that many of these individuals are coming from countries where there is no reliable way to ascertain their backgrounds, posing significant risks to the safety and security of American citizens.

Rubio continued, “Unfortunately, we’ll have to do something dramatic to remove people from this country that are here illegally, especially people we know nothing about. Ten million, 11 million was the number 15 years ago. Today, it’s upwards of 25, 30 million, maybe more.” This stark depiction of the situation reflects a deep frustration with the federal government’s failure to enforce immigration laws and protect the nation’s borders.

The Senator’s call for action is a rallying cry for those who view the current situation not as mere immigration but as a “mass migration” and “invasion.” “This is not immigration. You asked me about immigration. This is mass migration, mass migration. This an invasion of the country, and it needs to be dealt with dramatically,” Rubio asserted. His use of such strong language underscores the urgency and gravity with which he and his supporters view the issue.

From a conservative perspective, the influx of illegal immigrants represents not only a breach of national sovereignty but also a direct threat to the economic and social stability of the country. Many argue that illegal immigrants take jobs away from American citizens, drain public resources, and increase crime rates. Rubio’s stance resonates with a significant portion of the American electorate who are increasingly alarmed by these impacts.

Rubio’s statements also reflect a broader conservative sentiment that the U.S. must regain control of its borders to preserve the nation’s identity and values. The proposed mass deportation plan represents a dramatic shift towards stricter enforcement policies that prioritize the sovereignty and safety of American citizens above all else. Rubio and his supporters argue that the rule of law must be restored and that illegal immigrants must face the consequences of their actions.

Rubio’s supporters herald him as a bold and necessary voice in the Senate, willing to tackle one of America’s most pressing issues head-on. They praise his unwavering commitment to securing the borders and protecting American jobs and resources from the strain of illegal immigration. Many conservatives view Rubio as a champion of the rule of law and a defender of American sovereignty, seeing his strong stance on immigration as essential to the nation’s future.

With the 2024 elections approaching, Rubio’s staunch stance on immigration is likely to play a pivotal role in shaping the Republican platform. His alignment with Trump’s hardline policies signals a continued commitment to addressing what many conservatives view as one of the most pressing challenges facing the nation today. As the debate over immigration heats up, Rubio’s call for dramatic action will undoubtedly galvanize those who believe that the time for half-measures and leniency has long passed. The future of America, they argue, depends on decisive and unwavering action to secure its borders and uphold the rule of law.

Rubio’s clear and uncompromising position on illegal immigration is a beacon of hope for many who feel that their concerns have been ignored for too long. His advocacy for mass deportation and stringent border control measures reassures his base that he is committed to protecting the American way of life. As the nation prepares for the 2024 elections, Rubio’s vision for a secure and sovereign America will likely inspire and mobilize voters who demand robust action against the illegal immigration crisis.

 

POLL: Would you support Marco Rubio for VP?

 

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Radical Dems Go to Bat for Traitor Johnson Over Ukraine

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In a recent appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) sparked controversy with his unexpected declaration of support for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), despite glaring ideological disparities. Khanna’s surprising endorsement emerged in the aftermath of Speaker Johnson’s contentious facilitation of a foreign aid package, which included provisions for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, and passed through Congress under his guidance.

During his conversation with host Jonathan Karl, Khanna’s remarks seemed to laud Speaker Johnson’s leadership, citing vague notions of civility and procedural fairness. However, this endorsement from a Democratic representative inevitably raises doubts about Speaker Johnson’s commitment to conservative principles and his integrity as a leader within the conservative movement.

Conservative circles have traditionally approached issues of foreign aid with caution, particularly when it involves nations like Ukraine, and have advocated for a policy of non-interventionism. Speaker Johnson’s forceful promotion of such a package, seemingly at odds with these foundational conservative beliefs, inevitably begs the question of his fidelity to the conservative cause and his willingness to compromise on core values for political expediency.

Khanna’s unexpected alignment with Speaker Johnson exposes a troubling trend within conservative leadership, where the steadfast commitment to conservative principles is often sacrificed in pursuit of personal ambition and political pragmatism. By throwing his support behind Speaker Johnson, Khanna inadvertently highlights the erosion of conservative values within the movement and the growing influence of moderate voices willing to dilute conservative principles for the sake of compromise.

As the debate over Speaker Johnson’s future continues, Khanna’s endorsement serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges facing the conservative movement, torn between its ideological roots and the allure of centrist compromise. Whether Speaker Johnson’s actions will have lasting repercussions for conservative leadership remains uncertain, but Khanna’s endorsement has undoubtedly reignited a fierce debate over the movement’s identity and its commitment to upholding conservative values amidst internal discord and external pressures.

 

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POLL: Is Speaker Mike Johnson a traitor to America?

 

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