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The Future of Alabama's Roads

County Engineer Testifies Before Federal Committee

WASHINGTON – “Federal mandates and environmental requirements hamper Alabama’s efforts to recover its decaying roads and bridges,” Elmore County Engineer, Richie Beyer, told a Congressional committee focusing on government inefficiency.

As the Alabama Legislature readies to consider a state-funded initiative to resurface more than 12,000 miles of county roads, Beyer said that federal requirements are costing taxpayers through increased construction costs and unnecessary delays. As a former president of the National Association of County Engineers, Beyer said the challenges faced by Alabama engineers are repeated across the country.

“When county projects utilize federal funding, higher project costs and longer delivery times are the norm,” said Beyer during the committee’s 90-minute hearing of the Subcommittees on Interior, Energy and the Environment and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Bureaucratic red tape and cumbersome environmental reviews slow projects down and drive labor costs up. Currently, counties are required to follow the same exhaustive federal requirements on a small sidewalk or preservation project as they would for mega-projects.”

Beyer’s testimony comes just weeks before the Alabama Legislature is expected to consider a $1.2 billion bond issue proposal dedicated to local road and bridge improvements. Beyer said the project, known as ATRIP-2, would give each county in Alabama a minimum of $10 million for county road projects—some of which are ineligible for federal funding.

“This innovative program here in Alabama represents a commitment that tax dollars will be used as effectively and efficiently as possible,” he explained after returning to Alabama. “We look forward to working with the Alabama Legislature on improving our county roads and bridges beginning this fall.”

The Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA) unanimously voted to support a $1.2 billion bond issue to be divided up amongst all 67 counties to fund county infrastructure projects at its Annual Legislative Conference last December.

Sonny Brasfield, the Executive Director of the ACCA, said that the bond issue would put many Alabama counties ahead of their road and bridge improvement schedules by 15 to 20 years. “This proposal presents local governments with a unique opportunity to make significant improvements to local roads and bridges, without the time-constraints or extra costs associated with federal funding,” said Brasfield. “Citizens could see the benefit of this investment in the form of resurfaced roads and bridge improvements within the next 12 months.”

The legislation authorizing the bond issue is expected to be introduced in the Alabama Legislature early next month. Currently, 53 of Alabama’s 67 county commissions have adopted resolutions in support of the proposal.

The Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA) is a statewide organization representing county government in Alabama. ACCA promotes improved county government services in Alabama, offers educational programs for county officials and their staff members, administers insurance programs for county governments and employees, offers legal advice, and represents the interests of county government before state and federal organizations and agencies.