Pennsylvania company announces $7B toll road

Published 1:05 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A York, Penn., group announced plans Tuesday to construct a combination railway and toll road, connecting port operations in South Alabama to the Tennessee state line, but some of the organizations with which it said it has been working were shocked by the announcement.

In its announcement, Ameri-Metro said it had “finalized an agreement with Alabama Toll Facilities, Inc. (ATFI) to construct a 300-mile rail and road transportation complex from the vicinity of Orange Beach to the Tennessee state line.”

The project is estimated at $7 billion.

“This is a once in a lifetime project,” said Shah Mathias, CEO of Ameri-Metro. “This is our first project in Alabama and this is the first project of this scope in the South.”

Although full details of the project are still months from being finalized, Mathias said he was confident an aggressive timeline the company has put in place can be met and that work on the project could start in the fall of 2012.

What the company is calling an “unprecedented project” will include a four-lane limited access toll road from Orange Beach to Loretto, Tenn. The railway and road system, the company said, would create 14,000 construction jobs.

The announcement, which came in a mid-morning press release Tuesday, caught economic leaders throughout the state off guard. According to media outlets Tuesday, officials with state economic and transportation offices had no advance knowledge of the project being announced.

In an interview, Mathias said his group had worked with Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, the state DOT, and the Black Belt Commission. A spokesperson for Ivey said the meeting might have been as long as six to seven years ago, when she was treasurer;

Margaret Bentley, co-chair of the Black Belt Commission, said the communication with Mathias was informal, several years ago.