April 14, 2017
Legislation aimed at improving Alabama roads and bridges passed the House of Representatives Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday, but was carried over in the full House Thursday.
HB 487, by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, would allow the state to issue up to $2.4 billion in bonds for road and bridge improvements. The bonds would be repaid by an increase in the state gasoline and diesel fuel tax and a new tag fee on alternative-fuel vehicles.
Under the plan, counties and cities would receive $1.2 billion to improve and replace roads and bridges — with emphasis on safety, bridge replacement and enhancing the state’s neglected Farm-to-Market Road System. Another $1.2 billion would go to the Alabama Department of Transportation for state-maintained highways to enhance safety, ease congestion and increase Alabama’s economic competitiveness.
The bill would provide the state and counties matching money for a highly anticipated federal infrastructure program. President Donald Trump has warned states must be ready to participate in his planned trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.
“We’re not going to give the money to states unless they can prove that they can be ready, willing and able to start the project,” he said. “We don’t want to give them money if they’re all tied up for seven years with state bureaucracy.”
Poole’s bill addresses those concerns by prohibiting the use of bond issue funds for salaries, equipment or projects other than roads and bridges.
The legislation calls for increasing the state gasoline and diesel tax by 4 cents per gallon Sept. 1, 2017, and 2 cents per gallon Sept. 1, 2019. A conditional increase of 3 cents per gallon for additional projects would take effect Sept. 1, 2024, unless rejected by the Legislature. The measure would levy a $100 tag fee for alternative-fuel passenger vehicles and $150 for alternative commercial vehicles. The legislation preserves tax exemptions for off-road diesel fuel.
The bill would establish the Alabama Road and Bridge Rehabilitation and Improvement Authority to administer the bond program, which would fund projects under the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program 2 (ATRIP 2).
The legislation is supported by a coalition of grassroots organizations including the Alabama Farmers Federation, Association of County Commissions of Alabama, Business Council of Alabama, Alabama Retail Association, Alabama Truckers Association, Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure, Associated Builders and Contractors and Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.
Federation policy supports “increased and equitable funding for improving farm-to-market roads and bridges.”
Federation House Legislative Director David Cole said Rep. Poole worked to craft a bill that addresses critical infrastructure needs while ensuring accountability and a balanced distribution of funds.
"We appreciate Rep. Poole’s hard work and dedication to improving our state’s infrastructure, which will not only make our farm-to-market roads safer and more reliable, but will also make our state more competitive when recruiting industry," Cole said.
Alabamians interested in improving infrastructure may share stories of roads and bridges in need of repair at Facebook.com/FixMyRoadsAlabama/.