Legislative members want to tackle infrastructure funding problem

State county officials want more money for roads, bridges

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Damaged roads and worn down bridges are problems counties leaders have tried to fix for years.

“We can’t wait any longer. I think we’ve waited long enough and I think the public’s ready,” said Sonny Brasfield, the Association of County Commissions of Alabama executive director.

Many counties do not have money in their budgets to pay for repairs.

“I just talked with a county commissioner in North Alabama," said Brasfield. “Their school buses detour bridges 30,000 miles a school year to detour bridges."

He said the organization is coming up with a plan to present to lawmakers regarding infrastructure. It could include raising the gas tax and creating user fee for non-gas vehicles.

The gas tax has not been raised since 1992. He said currently counties receive around $130 million from the state from the gasoline tax.

“In order to get our roads and bridges on a 15-year resurfacing cycle for roads, we need an additional $330 million,” Brasfield said.

David Money, the Henry County probate judge, considers the gas tax to be a user fee.

“It’s going to take some type of legislation to get a gas tax that will continue, so we don’t have to address this every three to four years," Money said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh and House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter said infrastructure funding is a major priority this upcoming session.

Marsh has met with a transportation task force for nearly a year. They discussed current conditions of Alabama’s transportation network.

“I do believe that someone will be working on an infrastructure bill in the next session,” said Marsh. “We will make sure there is full discussion and open discussion.”

Marsh said he does not like taxes as much as anybody else, but said it has been 26 years since the gas tax was raised.

“Now I think if we’re going to be realistic with the state of Alabama, we’ve got to do something to address the need of infrastructure, and I’m willing to do that," he said. “I’m also willing to make sure it’s accountable to the people of the state.”

Rep. Ledbetter said it is a priority for House leaders.

“We’ve got an issue with our infrastructure and I think we’ve got to take a common sense approach to it and quick kicking the can down the road," said Ledbetter. "I think it’s time we fixed and I think a lot of people in the state are ready for us to do that.”

The transportation task force also discussed the conditions of ports, harbors, inland waterways, rail and, air service. The Alabama Transportation Institute at UA, Texas A&M and Auburn University have helped provide data.

Justice Smyth with the University of Alabama said over the last year various stakeholders have held meetings with various stakeholders including elected officials, industry experts and business advocates.

Here are some of the topics they have hit on:

Work Group  Topics Discussed 
Physical Infrastructure and Safety  How does Alabama build and maintain the highest performing infrastructure that lasts the longest and costs the least? 
Revenue  How does Alabama collect money and pay for new infrastructure? How does the state’s rates compare to other states? What does Alabama get for our money? How is additional tax revenue allocated between the state, cities, and counties? 
Ports, Harbors, Inland Waterways  How does Alabama improve the Port of Mobile and other navigable waterways in AL? What is the commercial and economic benefit?
Technology Considerations   What is the future of transportation? (Connected and autonomous vehicles? Ride-sharing? Car ownership? Electric/hybrid vehicles?)
Policy  What are the suggestions or recommendations lawmakers should or could consider when crafting legislation related to improving infrastructure?

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