EPES, Ala. (AP) – A 234-mile (376-kilometer) waterway through Alabama and Mississippi was supposed to transform a poor region with it opened more than 30 years ago, but it didn’t.
Many counties and towns on the $2 billion Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway remain poor, although the project did bring growth and prosperity elsewhere. Barge traffic on the waterway hasn’t gotten close to projections and companies didn’t flock to the region.
Supporters say it still provides thousands of jobs and pumps billions into the economy.
Officials say there’s no single reason companies didn’t flock to the waterway. The rise of overseas industry hurt domestic businesses just as promoters were trying to sell the new route. Some blame the decline of coal and poor promotion for the lack of growth, while others cite an inadequate workforce and the inertia of generational poverty.