Gov. Bob Riley is looking for ways to increase highway construction without raising the state gas tax, and toll roads will likely play a major role in his plan.
Riley has ordered the state Transportation Department to study the feasibility of getting private firms to build -- or to partner with the state -- on some new roads that would use tolls to cover construction costs.
Riley says there are four or five projects right now that are needed. But he says if the state waits on the federal government to fund them, it will be 15 or 20 years from now.
He says if the state can find a toll solution to some of these, "we will probably pursue that."
Transportation Department spokesman Tony Harris says the department is studying the feasibility of using toll s for:
- a southern bypass in Huntsville
- an elevated highway where heavily congested U.S. 280 approaches Interstate 459 at Birmingham
- and a limited-access highway connecting Dothan with Interstate 10 in the Florida Panhandle.
Harris says the department's research has already ruled out the feasibility of a toll road for Montgomery's proposed outer loop.
State Transportation Director Joe McInnes is optimistic about where the research will lead.
Riley says another option he is considering is using revenue from natural gas wells in state-owned waters along the Alabama coast to build a hurricane evacuation route in Mobile or Baldwin counties.