Toll roads in Alabama? Governor Riley says it makes sense for the state specifically for Montgomery's Outer Loop project. And, he brought in some heavy firepower from Washington to help make the case that tolls roads are better than roads paid for with tax dollars.
There are more cars and trucks on the roads today than ever. That's why the Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, came to town to push for the construction of more roadways here but not paying for them in the usual way with more taxes. "Inside the beltway, lobbyists are starting to call for higher federal gas taxes and more federal control over state and local decision making. Indeed, they are proposing to more than triple the taxes you pay at the pump within the next ten years."
The Governor says he wants more roads but the federal government isn't sending enough money here to pay for them. "Why would we want the federal government to raise our gas tax, take Alabama money and send it to Washington and then allow us to have it back. If we're going to do it let's just do it here."
So, the answer here he says is in public-private partnerships - toll roads. For example, it's the only solution he believes to the planned I-85 extension. "I - 85 from Montgomery to Mississippi - total cost of the project is how much?" Joe McIness the state Director of Transportation gave him the amount. "Estimated about 1.8 billion dollars." Then, the Governor responded. "Even if the prices didn't go up, it would be 25 or 30 years before you could ride on that road."
And, the Governor also talked about I-10. "The I-10 connector from Dothan down to I-10 with public-private partnership, we may can go down there and build that road and be riding in it in the next three , four, five years. " McIness also brought up a local project. "Talk about the Montgomery Outer Loop which as those in Montgomery know that's a project that's virtually stopped."
And, the governor says a toll road could mean the completion of the Outer Loop sooner and cheaper. "I've heard the definition of insanity is keeping doing the same thing you've always done and expecting different results. Sending money to Washington will not get you different results."
The Governor says toll roads only work when there's an alternate route. That's so for motorists who use the toll road - it's a choice.
There is a bill in the legislature this coming session that will create a toll road authority. The Governor says he supports that bill.