Welcome to SARPC's digital newsletter. Our goal is to publish a newsletter bi-monthly that provides highlights of projects and activities being undertaken at the agency. If you have any questions or would like to request additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
In This Issue








With the time change and the spring season finally here there are so many positive activities, etc. in our Region that the SARPC staff is involved with (Please read each Directors report).

In Atmore (Escambia County) we attended the groundbreaking for Coastal Growers along with Gov. Ivey, Congressman Jerry Carl’s staffers and many others. (See photos). SARPC Board members Mayor Jim Staff and County Commissioner Raymond Wiggins also attended along with many State and local officials.

SARPC Community Planning Department secured approximately $2.5 million in grant funding for this huge project that will employ 150 people and utilize the Port of Mobile for exporting shelled peanuts globally.

REGIONALISM at its best!!!

John F. (Rickey) Rhodes
Executive Director
Coastal Growers Groundbreaking in Atmore

Mobile MPO Updates

The Mobile MPO met on Wednesday, March 10th, 2021 at 10:00 am via GoToMeeting.com. The agenda was as followed:
  1. Call to Order
  2. Consider amendment to 2020-2023 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) STPAA, Mobile County, 100072915 Gopher Tortoise Mitigation Habitat Development $300,000 Resolution 21-001
  3. Consider amendment to 2020-2023 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) STPMB (CN) - New Alignment of CR-25 (McFarland Road) From CR-28 (Old Pascagoula Road) to CR-358 (Three Notch Road) $13,100,000 Resolution 21-002
  4. Delete 100056130; ( UT ); BR; Replace Bridge, Bin 008714, SR-16 (US-90) Westbound Over Tensaw-Spanish River. Resolution 21-003
  5. Consider amendment to 2020-2023 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) FTA 5310 funds to include the Program of Projects Resolution 21-004: City of Satsuma ($33,085 Federal/$33,085 Local); Via Health and Fitness Center ($38,400 Federal/$9,600 local) and the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission for program administration ($31,736 Federal/$0 Local)
  6. Approval of the FY2020-2023 Human Services Coordinated Transportation Plan Resolution 21-005
  7. Review report of the Mobile MPO Pubic Participation Process. (No Resolution)
  8. Approve modification to the Mobile MPO Public Participation Plan (PPP), which outlines the public involvement procedures for the Mobile MPO transportation documents, to include the Limited English Proficiency Plan. Resolution 21-006
  9. Modification of the 2021 Unified Planning Work Program to account for a Mobile Area Wide Major Road Plan, in regards to Mobile County and it’s connectivity to all municipal planning documents. Resolution 21-007
  10. Approve updated performance measures for Transit Asset Management, Transit Safety, PM1 (Safety), and PM 3 (Congestion and Freight) Resolution 21-008
  11. Approve modification to the Mobile MPO Bylaws creating MPO Vice Chairperson Resolution 21-009
  12. Approve modification to the Mobile TCC/CAC Bylaws creating TCC/CAC Vice Chairperson Resolution 21-010
  13. Discussion of FHWA Notice N4510.851 – Apportionment of Highway Infrastructure Program Funds Pursuant to the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021: $3,193,942 Highway/ $55,000 Transit apportioned to Mobile MPO (No Resolution)
  14. Discussion on the I-10 Mobile River Bridge (No Resolution)
  15. Old Business
  16. New Business
  17. Adjourn

New bridge plan only includes fees for large trucks

Posted by Dale Liesch | Mar 22, 2021
Officials with both local Metropolitan Planning organizations and the Alabama Department of Transportation announced a plan on Monday, March 22 for a cheaper Interstate 10 bridge over the Mobile River that would only serve large trucks. 

The idea, introduced by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Fairhope City Council President Jack Burrell, U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, and former ALDOT Division Engineer Vince Calametti, aims to build a truck-only cable-stayed bridge and to restripe the existing Bayway with three lanes in each direction instead of two. 

Priced at $725 million, about half the funding for the project would come from state and federal sources, in the form of Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds, Calametti said. Around $400 million would come from a fee charged to trucks 46 feet and above using the bridge, Calametti said. The bridge would “most likely” be designated an Interstate 10 truck route, he said, and smaller vehicles would not be allowed on it. 

“The fee will be less than half the proposed fee included in the previous plan,” he said. “It is estimated between $10 and $15. It won’t be more than $15.” 

The 46-feet or longer stipulation, Calametti said, would prevent smaller trucks, like those used for local deliveries, from being impacted. It’s too early to speculate, he said, if the toll would ever sunset. That would be determined at a later date. 

Existing routes, including the Bankhead Tunnel, the Wallace Tunnel, the Bayway and the Causeway will remain toll free, Calametti said. 

By removing large trucks from the Wallace Tunnel, Calametti said, commute time could be cut by 60 to 90 minutes during peak travel time. Trucks will also be diverted from the Cochran Africatown Bridge, he said. The trucks would use the so-called “truck bridge” instead. 

The increase from four lanes to six lanes on the Bayway is designed to increase efficiency by some 40 percent, also during peak times, Calametti said. While the new lanes would eat up the shoulders that currently exist on the Bayway, Calametti said ALDOT would double the size of its emergency response team — stationing a truck in both Baldwin County and Mobile County. In addition, turnarounds would be added to allow distressed travelers to pull over if need be. 

The phased approach of the project would also see a second bridge and a new Bayway built under later phases, Calametti said. Unlike the last proposal, this project would be controlled completely by the state and would not be a public-private partnership. 

The timeline for construction for this concept would be 2022 to 2023, as the state would lose out on a $125 million federal grant if the project is not underway by the third quarter of 2022. This was a point Stimpson, who is chairman of the Mobile MPO, and Burrell, chairman of the Eastern Shore MPO, said was important. It was one of three points they made in discussions with Gov. Kay Ivey in January about keeping the project alive. 

“No. 1, it had to reduce congestion,” Burrell said. “No. 2, it had to protect the $125 million federal grant and No. 3, it needed to leave all the existing routes untolled. The MPO response has been very, very favorable.” 
Stimpson reiterated the importance of keeping the large federal grant active. 

“Protecting the $125 million grant is critically important,” he said. “We need to demonstrate to the federal government that there’s local support or the federal government will redirect the funds.” 

The new project, Stimpson said, would help move passengers and commerce across the bay more quickly and more efficiently, which would help secure more jobs and opportunities to the area. 

“We believe this plan is a good, solid plan,” he said. “There will be no tolls for cars and small trucks.” 

Carl, who was elected to congress in November, told the crowd gathered for a press conference that leaders he has spoken with in Washington — specifically those who’ve been trapped on the Bayway — understand the need for a bridge, as does local leadership. 

“Part of my campaign rhetoric was focused on the bridge,” he said. “Everyone agrees the bridge is needed.” 

The first step for the new project would be to gain the approval of both the Mobile and Eastern Shore MPOs, Calametti said. Following approval by the boards, ALDOT would begin to hold public hearings.

RPO Updates

The South Alabama Regional Planning Commission (SARPC) met in October using the GoToMeeting app. The agenda included:

  • Adoption of the minutes of the previous meeting (these will be sent out soon)
  • Review and adoption of the Fiscal Year 2021 Work Program (available for review online at: HERE
  • Review and adoption of the Fiscal Years 2020-2023 Human Services Coordinated Transportation Plan (available for review online at: HERE

The RPO Transportation Plan Project List (available for review online at http://www.mobilempo.org/RPODocuments.html SARPC Rural Planning Organization


The LRTP is multimodal in scope, and is based on public input, and a travel demand forecast model. In 2019, an online survey was conducted with almost 150 respondents. Questions ranged from where is the worst congestion, what roads need improvements, problems with the transit systems, etc. There were a lot of comments about the I-10 Mobile River Bridge and the potential for tolls. Prior to the online survey, staff also conducted a South Alabama Freight Forum, which was an opportunity to hear from large manufacturers and trucking companies, to find out what the top issues are concerning the movement of freight in South Alabama. The Bicycle / Pedestrian plan was updated, and the public transit section was authored by the Wave Transit, less the Demand Response Transit Study. The Climate Change element, or Extreme Event Planning, remained almost unchanged from Destination 2040 LRTP.

The LRTP Envision 2045 was adopted by the Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization on April 22, 2020.

More information on the new plan can be found at https://www.envision2045.org/

Transportation Improvement Program( TIP)

The TIP represents a four year program (2020-2023) for improvements in the various transportation systems located within the Mobile study area as identified in the Mobile MPO's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), the twenty-five year plan for the Mobile Urban Area Destination 2040. The LRTP establishes the transportation programs that are needed to meet travel demand by the study year and study area. LRTP projects that become funded are moved into the TIP and submitted to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), where they are programmed into the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). For MPO projects, TIP project selection is based on priorities established by MPO member governments and the availability of funds through the Surface Transportation Attributable program. For other projects, ALDOT has discretion of project funding based on availability of funds from various types of funding categories. Most often, projects in the TIP are derived from the LRTP. The TIP guides ALDOT in its annual allocation of funds for transportation improvements and becomes a part of the STIP.
ArcGIS Online is now being utilized by MPO staff to map all federally funded surface transportation projects within our area. Check it out.
2020-2023 E-STIP HERE

Covid-19 Affect on Traffic Patterns

SARPC staff have been working on statistics concerning how COVID-19 has affected travel patterns in the Mobile Urbanized area. For information on these statistics and travel patterns please contact ajohnson@sarpc.org

APPLY BY 4/29/21 EDA Now Accepting Applications for 2021 Build to Scale Program
The U.S. Economic Development Administration has published the FY21 Build to Scale (B2S) Program Notice of Funding Opportunity making $38 million in federal funds available to build regional economies through scalable startups. The program continues to further technology-based economic development initiatives that accelerate high quality job growth, create more economic opportunities, and support the next generation of industry leading companies. Under the FY21 B2S program, EDA is soliciting applications for two separate competitions through its Venture Challenge and Capital Challenge. The Venture Challenge seeks to support entrepreneurship and accelerate scalable companies’ growth in communities that are challenging the status quo of markets, commercializing technology, and furthering job creation. The Capital Challenge seeks to increase access to capital in communities, sectors, or regions where risk capital is in short supply. This includes accelerators, educational institutions, angel networks, and investment funds (B2S does not directly fund individuals or individual startups). For full program details, please visit www.eda.gov/oie/buildtoscale/.

Current Closing Date for Applications: Applications are due April 29, 2021 at 11:59pm ET.
The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has published has published an Addendum to its Fiscal Year 2020 Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Notice of Funding Opportunity (FY20 PWEAA NOFO) making $1.467 billion in CARES Act funding available to eligible grantees in communities impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

For more information, visit EDA's CARES Act Recovery Assistance website.
Current Closing Date for Applications: There are no application deadlines and the agency will accept proposals on a rolling basis until the publication of a new PWEAA NOFO, cancellation of this NOFO, or all funds are obligated.

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has published the FY 2020 Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Programs Notice of Funding Opportunity (PWEAA NOFO). EDA’s Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) programs provide economically distressed communities and regions with comprehensive and flexible resources to address a wide variety of economic needs. Projects funded by these programs will support work in Opportunity Zones and will support the mission of the Department by, among other things, leading to the creation and retention of jobs and increased private investment, advancing innovation, enhancing the manufacturing capacities of regions, providing workforce development opportunities, and growing ecosystems that attract foreign direct investment.

Through the PWEAA NOFO, EDA solicits applications from applicants in order to provide investments that support construction, non-construction, planning, technical assistance, and revolving loan fund projects under EDA’s Public Works program and EAA programs (which includes Assistance to Coal Communities). Grants and cooperative agreements made under these programs are designed to leverage existing regional assets and support the implementation of economic development strategies that advance new ideas and creative approaches to advance economic prosperity in distressed communities, including those negatively impacted by changes to the coal economy. Deadlines: There are no submission deadlines under this opportunity. Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until a new PWEAA NOFO is published, this PWEAA NOFO is cancelled, or all funds have been expended.

Note that this PWEAA NOFO supersedes the previously published Economic Development Assistance Program or “EDAP-2018” funding opportunity.
USDA Seeking Applications for Loans and Grants to Support Rural Water and Waste Disposal Systems

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development is seeking applications for loans and grants to support rural water and waste disposal systems. Applications are accepted year-round, and technical assistance is available. USDA's Water and Environmental Programs can assist with constructing or improving infrastructure through loans, grants, and loan guarantees. USDA can also partner with rural water and waste service providers to finance infrastructure that aims to protect the cyber security of their facilities. The Water and Environmental Programs at USDA were recently expanded and guaranteed loans are now available to smaller communities that have the financial strength to take advantage of conventional credit as well as larger communities with populations of up to 50,000.
USDA also has technical assistance resources available through partnering organizations. USDA's resources are not limited to communities that have already received a loan or grant through Rural Development. Any water or waste disposal system in an eligible rural area may benefit from technical assistance, such as:

·      The National Rural Water Association circuit rider program, which can assist systems with general troubleshooting and support, including cybersecurity analysis.
·      Training courses and other technical assistance on a variety of topics, including cybersecurity management, that are offered by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, American Water Works Association, and other providers.
·      Circuit riders and technical assistance providers that can assist with reviewing, updating, and implementing emergency response plans and vulnerability assessments.
For more information on the resources available reach out to your local USDA Community Program Specialist. Applications can be submitted through RDApply.
USDA Seeking Comments on Final Rule to Expand Broadband Services in Rural Areas

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking comments on a final rule to expand broadband services in rural areas by simplifying program requirements to make more companies eligible to participate in USDA's ReConnect Program. This rule will eliminate paperwork requirements and will shorten the application process. The changes take effect on April 27, 2021, at the end of the 60-day comment period.
The ReConnect Program offers loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that do not currently have sufficient access. Comments must be submitted through https://www.regulations.gov by April 27, 2021. For additional information, see page 11603 of the Federal Register from February 26, 2021.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected Groundwork USA, a national nonprofit organization, to receive $600,000 in funding to provide technical assistance to brownfields communities. Using the money provided by EPA, Groundwork USA will provide communities with best practices for integrating environmental justice and equitable development principles in addressing local brownfields cleanup and revitalization challenges.
Grant Opportunity: 2021 AARP Livable Communities Challenge 

The American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP) Community Challenge provides grants to fund quick-action projects to help communities become more livable for people of all ages. Applications are accepted for projects for public spaces, housing, transportation, civic engagement, coronavirus recovery, diversity, inclusion, and more. Eligible applicants include 501(C)(3), 501(C)(4), and 501(c)(6) non-profit organizations, government entities, and other types of organizations (considered on a case-by-case basis). Grant amounts depend on size and term of project. Applications are due April 14 at 8 p.m. ET.
Tools & Data
2021 State of the Workforce: Responding to the Pandemic (FEBRUARY 2021)

The National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) released its bi-annual State of the Workforce Report (February 10) at the 2021 Winter Policy Forum

This year’s report, subtitled "Responding to the Pandemic," focuses on how the workforce agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands assisted American workers through one of the worst economic downturns our country has experienced. The full report and individual state profiles can be accessed at 2021 State of the Workforce Report: Responding to the Pandemic, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report: Federal Economic Development and COVID-19 Recovery – Issues and Policy Options (February 2021)

Atlanta Federal Reserve Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity

The Atlanta Fed publishes a monthly “Workforce Currents” report that includes topics of interest for economic recovery. Notable issues include:

Announcing a new resource available from the EPA Office of Community Revitalization, created in collaboration with CDFA and Skeo Solutions. This guide provides an overview of various development finance tools and suggestions for how communities could use these tools to finance projects in Opportunity Zones.
APDU Hosting a Workshop Series on “Making the Best of the 2020 Census”
The Association of Public Data Users (APDU) is hosting a workshop series on "Making the Best of the 2020 Census" beginning April 14, 2021. Accurate statistics about 2020 will rely on much more than data collected via the decennial Census. Developing reliable data will require an understanding of challenges resulting from the pandemic, combined with greater use of non-traditional sources like administrative records. The solutions to these problems will impact how data is gathered going forward for a variety of purposes: education, housing, economic development, public health, and more. During this workshop series you will learn more about the quality of the data that state and local leaders rely on and how you can improve and supplement it. Register today for this series of town hall events and trainings.
SARPC Economic Development Recovery Plan Update

As you know we were awarded a grant from EDA to create an Economic Relief and Resiliency Response Plan. This plan will benefit our Region by identifying industry sectors that had little or no impact from the Covid-19 Pandemic. Our Steering Committee, which consist of David Rogers, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Lee Lawson, Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, and Jess Nicholas, Escambia County Economic Development, has meet several times over the past few months. We received RFQ’s from 5 firms for this project. Three firms were invited to provide presentations, via Zoom. The Steering Committee selected VisionFirst Advisors for this project.  

Employment and Economic Development Services
Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SARPC) enrolls persons 55 year or older, who are not currently working and are in the 125% Federal poverty level into a training a placement program. While in this program the participant is placed in a host agency which provides on-the-job training. The participant is paid a stipend of $7.25 per hour and provides community service to the host agency for 19.75 hours per week. 
The goal of the program is to prepare the participant for unsubsidized employment and assist them in becoming self-sufficient. 
If you are interested in becoming a Host Agency or know of someone who may benefit from the program as a participant, please call 251.591.6506 or 251.263.3907.
Mature Staffing Service (MSS)
Our Staffing Service provides high quality recruiting and payroll services to governmental and non-profit agencies looking to employ mature workers of any age. Our goal is to streamline the payroll and hiring process, adding value back to your day. For more information please call 251-652-0585.
Revolving Loan Fund (RLF)
SARPC’s Revolving Loan Fund can be an addition to the SBA products. Loans from $10,000 up to $75,000 are considered. The RLF funds can be used for working capital, purchasing of equipment or property and buildings. The current rate for the term of the loan is 5%. The terms are set according to what the funding purpose will be. 
Find out today how the Revolving Loan Fund can be used to bridge the gap of the cash needed to complete that business project by calling 251-591-6506.
However, if you are considering expanding your business but lack the needed guidance, then check out the information below to find out what the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Administration are doing to provide the technical assistance you need.

The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce continues to partner with the Small Business Administration to provide an extensive mentoring program for business owners ready to move.

Emerging Leaders Executive Entrepreneurial Program
The Emerging Leaders program assists small business owners in growing their business, creating jobs, and strengthening their communities. This innovative initiative is an intense 7-month course that offers approximately 100 hours of training per participant and provides the opportunity for small business owners to work with experienced professionals at no cost.

Target your business for expansion

Emerging Leaders training is specifically designed to accelerate growth and support the expansion of your business. The curriculum delivers advanced training and provides strategies to help you access new avenues of capital. It offers practical tools to pursue new paths for business development. It surrounds you with a network of government resources and local business leaders prepared to invest time and energy in your business.


The Emerging Leaders Initiative is open to small business owners and executives that:

•Have annual revenues of at least $250,000.
•Have been in business for at least 3 years.
•Have at least one employee other than self.

The program meets every other Tuesday from April 6 – October 19, 2021.

To register visit www.sba.gov/emergingleaders.

or call your local U.S. Small Business Administration office at
Brent McMahan; brent.mcmahan@sba.gov or 251-544-7401


Area Agency on Aging Sponsors New Facebook Campaign
In response to the pandemic, the Area Agency on Aging has been awarded some funds to sponsor Facebook ads this Spring to reach Older Adults who are not yet able to visit senior centers or other community programs. From March 18 to April 11 many persons age 60 and older in South Alabama will see posts about volunteer opportunities still available with our South Alabama RSVP program (Retired Senior Volunteer for persons age 55+) to help them reengage with the community. From April 12-23 sponsored ads will run for the Boost Your Budget Campaign. SARPC’s Area Agency on Aging has partnered with the National Council on Aging for a dozen years to screen older adults and help those who appear eligible, but are not receiving public benefits, to obtain these benefits and support economic security. The campaign centers around the normal April 15th tax filing day, taking advantage of people focused on their finances and also the benefit screenings that take place in our IRS funded Tax Counseling for the Elderly program. Late April and May we will sponsor ads for our free GetSetUp and Trualta online programs for older adults. GetSetUp offers 170 zoom classes and social hours on a variety of topics of interest, and Trualta  is an online educational support program for caregivers. Please like our Aging South Alabama Facebook page to keep up to date with information about Area Agency on Aging services.
Senior Centers Are Opened for Outside Activities

Governor Ivy announced Senior Centers may resume outdoor activities effective March 8, 2021 as long as the centers follow guidelines for outdoor programs issued by the Alabama Department of Senior Services, and wear face coverings and maintain six-foot distance between persons of different households. Masks do not have to be worn when exercising at six-feet distance or greater outside. The guidelines may require more staff to comply than many smaller senior centers have available, but larger city run centers and non-profits are taking advantage of this opportunity and offering outside exercise classes, walking groups, yoga, porch visits, etc. Drive through activities and curbside pick-up for meals are still offered at all senior nutrition centers. For information on the Reopening Guidelines issues by the Alabama Department of Senior Services, go to www.alabamaageline.gov

IRS Tax Counseling or the Elderly program extended until May 17, 2021

Due to the tax filing deadline extension announced by the IRS, our South Alabama RSVP volunteers will continue providing free tax e-filing for older adults at its sites in Baldwin and Escambia Counties. For information contact Dawne Biggs in Baldwin County at (251) 620-1462 or Charles Smith in Escambia County at (251) 236-3881.