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The Future of Alabama's Roads

State Gas Tax Revenue Data

Gas tax revenues serve as the primary funding source for states’ transportation projects. More fuel efficient vehicles, inflation and other factors have taken a toll on gas tax collections in recent years, though. In roughly two-thirds of states, total motor fuel tax revenues haven’t kept pace with inflation over the past 20 years.

Governing calculated inflation-adjusted fuel tax revenues using data reported to the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections.

Editorial: ATRIP-2 and How it Will Affect Our Counties

Tomorrow morning millions of folks in Alabama will turn the switch, throw the car in reverse and head out for the daily responsibilities. Before leaving they’ll give a great deal of thought to where they’re headed, who they’ll see, and what they’ll do when they get there.

The thing most of us almost never consider, of course, is the safety of the roads we’ll drive on or the bridges we’ll cross.

That’s how we have done business here in Alabama for more than two decades and today, by any measure, all of us drive on some of the worst-maintained roads in the country. The statistics are indisputable and the evidence, if you’ll take a look around tomorrow when you hit the road again, is certainly enough to us worry about our own safety. Every day school buses in Alabama detour hundreds of bridges that are so unsafe that they have failed federal review standards.  Children spend way too long bouncing in the bus seats simply because we have ignored the problem for decades. Alabama’s much-discussed “farm-to-market” road system is in deplorable condition. In a state that depends on farm and timber income to feed and support the local economy in almost every community, our road system should be one of the best in the nation. However, that isn’t the case. A world-wide study a couple of years ago called Alabama’s Highway 431, that stretches from the Tennessee Valley to Dothan, the “highway to hell” and listed it as one of the four most dangerous roads in the world. And, tragically, our rural road fatality rate is among the worst in the country.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve worked hard to raise the public’s awareness of the crisis that lies ahead. And, by now, most of you have probably read and heard a great deal about a new effort to repair our roads and bridges that has been initiated by County Commissioners all over the state. The project is called ATRIP-2 in an effort to continue the forward momentum we’ve made in the last four years through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP) initiated by Gov. Robert Bentley. This new initiative will make $1.2 billion available statewide by issuing bonds funded with an increase in the gasoline and diesel fuel tax of 3-cents per gallon. This reasonable, temporary adjustment in the tax rate will pay dividends in every community in our state.

The legislation needed to establish ATRIP-2 will be introduced during this year’s regular session of the Alabama Legislature. The language of the bill will ensure that the money can ONLY be spent on roads and bridges. It will also provide that each year the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts will audit the expenditures and will have the power to make public officials repay any money that is not allocated directly to roads. No money can go to salaries, purchases of equipment, or any other items. Sure, passage of the legislation will cost everyone a little extra money, but only a little. If you drive 12,000 miles a year you’ll pay an extra $1.50 per month. None of us want to dole out any more money, but is there really any other way to improve our transportation system?

Clearly, two decades of ignoring the problem has only made matters worse.

I’ve spent almost 30 years working to help improve the services delivered by county governments in Alabama, and this project represents the most transparent and accountable initiative that I’ve ever seen. It is certainly focused on a problem that touches every one of us every time we get inside a vehicle.

When you hit the road tomorrow, maybe it’s time for you to take a look at the conditions of the roads you drive and the bridges you cross. And, just maybe, you’ll agree that it is finally time to let your opinions be heard.

Sonny Brasfield is the Executive Director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. He directs a Montgomery-based organization that provides assistance and unified leadership for Alabama’s 67 county governments. 

 

Engineers Support Proposal for Roads and Bridges

Montgomery, Ala.—The Association of County Engineers of Alabama (ACEA) voted to support a $1.2 billion bond issue that the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA) is currently seeking legislative approval for in the 2017 legislative session. The proposal, approved at the ACCA Annual Legislative Conference late last year, calls for a three-cent per gallon increase on gasoline and diesel fuel that would expire when the bonds are repaid.

The $1.2 billion total will be divided up amongst all 67 counties based, in part, on each county’s population. ACCA Executive Director, Sonny Brasfield, said that the minimum allocation for each county under the proposal is $10 million. The revenue from the bonds can only be spent on road and bridge projects. It cannot be spent on salaries, equipment, or any construction other than roads and bridges.

“For a person driving about 20,000 miles per year – which is a high estimate – this increase would cost about twenty-five dollars ($25.00) a year. That’s just a few cents over two-bucks a month. It doesn’t seem like much, but that money will greatly improve the lives of Alabamians who drive on poor roads and bridges every day,” said Brasfield.

ACEA President, David Palmer, said that this plan will leave a long lasting, positive impact on all counties in the state. “I believe in value and return on investment. If we don’t invest in our infrastructure now, we will pay the price later. It will be less expensive to fix our roads and bridges now then to try and reclaim them after it’s too late and the irreversible damage is done.”

County Engineers are working to develop county specific maps that detail where the bond issue will positively affect their individual counties. Residents who are interested in sharing their most pressing road and bridge needs are encouraged to fill out a short survey found at www.drivealabama.org/about/survey.

 

 

 

DRIVE-Along County Road Tour Kicks off in Lee and Chambers Counties

By Rosanna Smith via WSFA

LEE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) – On Wednesday, the statewide DRIVE-Along County Road Tour kicked off.The goal of this tour is to emphasize the critical need for transportation infrastructure improvements to state leaders.

The Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, also known as ATRIP, was introduced by Governor Bentley in 2012 as a bold infrastructure initiative aimed at investing over $1 billion into Alabama’s local roads and bridges.

Now that the ATRIP program is nearing its end, many county officials and engineers worry that the momentum gained will be stopped in its tracks.

Engineers with Lee and Chambers counties escorted state and county leaders on a tour of both deficient and recently improved road and bridge sites. For Lee County the $18.98 million improvements delivered over a 5-year period is equivalent to over 17 years of normal federal allocations received.

For Chambers the $13 million in improvements delivered in Chambers County over a 3-year period is equivalent to 20+ years of normal federal allocations received by the county.

Although this is a big win for both counties, with more than 50 percent of local roads not eligible for federal funds, without reoccurring or increased source of funding, they will not be able to maintain or improve those existing road ways.

“Lee County right now has enough money, based on the system we have and the cost to maintain it. We only have enough money to put us on a 57-year resurfacing system. Roads aren’t designed to last that long,” said Justin Hardee, Lee County Engineer.

“It’s obvious that we are at a point where something must be done. We are going to have to make some adjustments to our fuel tax so we can provide enough funding to fix this,” said Senator Gerald Dial.

“At this point in time, if we don’t get more revenue we are going to have to continue delaying the projects that are already in bad shape,” said Josh Harvill, Chambers County Engineer.

This tour will continue through 2016.

DRIVE Alabama, who hosted this tour, is a coalition of community leaders and citizens led by county engineers from Alabama’s 67 counties speaking in one voice to bring attention to the growing infrastructure needs across the state.

Drive Alabama; initiative geared at education of road infrastructure

By Breken Terry via WAAY

Click here to view the video newscast

The Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement program has put $1 billion into Alabama road projects since 2012.

The program enacted by Governor Bentley was put in place to help local counties repave and build new bridges.

All the money has been allocated out to road projects throughout the state. The Atrip funding was a one time fix, and county road engineers believe they will soon be back at square one when it comes to funding county road projects.

“If we don’t get adequate funding for maintenance of the roads I’m going to be in the same condition,” said John Bedford, the Colbert County Road Engineer.

The Association of County Commissions of Alabama introduced a social media campaign called Drive Alabama, which stands for “Developing a road and infrastructure vision for everyone in Alabama.”

The goal of Drive Alabama is to inform citizens and county leaders about future road funding issues, and what it will take to get a permeate fix.

Bedford says apply costs to repave roads have risen substantially over the last decade.

“I’ve seen material costs go up 300 to 400 percent,” said Bedford.

Atrip money helped offset those costs, for the time being.

“We did the 80 to 20 match and the success for Colbert county we probably saw four years of projects in one year,” said Bedford.

Colbert Counties Atrip money went to building a new $2 million dollar bridge and countless repaving projects.

In Colbert County alone Bedford and his team are responsible for keeping up with 600 miles of roads. He says that is why educating people about the funding issues they face is important, and why he supports the Drive Alabama initiative.

“It’s trying to show the importance of the road system and it’s also giving a cost value to the road system and what it’s taking to maintain the state,” said Bedford.

Drive Alabama involves all 67 counties in the state. They have started their social media campaign. They have a twitter, facebook, and instagram accounts already set up.

Their website is supposed to launch in November 2016.