Works Progress Administration

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The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was a federal work relief program operated as part of the "New Deal" program to combat unemployment during the Great Depression. The program operated in Birmingham from September 1937 to May 1943 and employed as many as 9,000 people locally during its peak. The Birmingham program was overseen by Birmingham's Commissioner of Public Improvements Jimmy Morgan with technical assistance from the Birmingham Department of Engineering and additional consultation with the Jefferson County Department of Health.

In April 1943 Morgan calculated the total value of the work done by the WPA under his supervision at $4,169,572.56 (more than $63 million in 2019 dollars). Most of the cost for the work was provided by the United States, with a small percentage of city funding which was offset by savings in maintenance costs and damage claims. Additional federally-funded projects, some with labor provided through the WPA, were carried out by the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District and the Federal Bureau of Roads.

Projects in the Birmingham District

  • 45 miles of streets graded
  • 88 miles of streets paved
  • 46 miles of sidewalks poured
  • 70 miles of curb and gutter installed
  • 22 miles of sanitary sewers laid
  • 24 miles of storm sewers constructed
  • 15 miles of stream bank erosion control
  • Construction of drainage culverts throughout the city
  • Replacement of 525 small wooden bridges throughout the city
  • Flood mitigation work on Village Creek
  • Elimination of 3,742 "dry toilets" and septic tanks

See also