The process for funding roads and bridges in Alabama is a complicated one that involves both federal and state entities. Through programs like MAP-21 and the Highway Transportation Bill, the federal government sends a significant amount of money to the state of Alabama for transportation and infrastructure projects. The state, through the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), then ensures that local governments receive a share of the funds, along with additional state funds (like the ATRIP monies) that are designated for use by local governments. On the state level, counties and cities primarily rely on dollars received from a portion of the state’s gasoline tax to complete maintenance and improvement projects. Counties then take those funds, and combine them with any local monies that may be available for road and bridge projects.
Many residents wonder why some roads and bridges receive repairs, while others seem to be continually overlooked? When local governments receive transportation funding from the federal government, they are given limitations for how those dollars can be spent. Certain projects are deemed ‘eligible’ based on factors like their location and the average amount of daily traffic. Additionally, state gas tax dollars are also limited to certain uses, and are generally used to either perform basic maintenance activities or to match monies generated through federal grants. Too often, these eligibility requirements limit local governments’ ability to use outside monies to address ‘overlooked’ road and bridge projects, despite their overwhelming need for repair.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Alabama’s Transportation Infrastructure?
Current funding sources are woefully shy of keeping pace with the rapid decline and rising costs of Alabama’s deteriorating local road and bridge infrastructure. The mantra of cutting costs and doing business smarter will not solve this problem alone. The magnitude of the issue has been ignored for far too long. With the end of ATRIP drawing near and the last state and federal gas taxes being enacted in the early 1990s, the problem is only compounded. A creative and collaborative solution must be found to address this issue, but it is paramount that the public and elected officials alike understand what ignoring this issue will mean to them. That’s why the DRIVE Alabama coalition is working to Develop a Road and Infrastructure Vision for Everyone in Alabama.