Alabama's economy and our roads: we can't wait
All over the state, at every level of government, the issue of fixing Alabama’s crumbling road and bridge system is a policy matter that has risen to the forefront over the past few years. Alabamians are looking for answers to address the ever-growing list of road and bridge problems that plague our state, county and city roadways.
Maintaining a safe and effective road and bridge system is an essential government service and is crucial to attracting and retaining job creators and growing our economy.
That’s why the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure (AAI) is leading the charge to solve this issue by connecting the public and the business community with the lawmakers responsible for improving Alabama’s transportation infrastructure.
Alabamians simply can’t afford to continue to drive on deficient roads which cost Alabama drivers a total of $4.2 billion annually in the form of additional vehicle operating costs, congestion-related delays and traffic crashes.
Business executives rank quality infrastructure as the second most important factor when selecting a new site. If Alabama is going to continue to recruit new industry, such as Mazda-Toyota, or encourage the expansion of existing industry, then we are going to have to address this critical issue.
Solving this issue will require a plan that invests significantly more dollars into Alabama’s transportation system on an annual basis. A majority of this additional revenue will need to come from Alabama’s primary source of transportation funding, the user-based state gas tax. This user-fee sits at 18 cents per gallon, currently the fifth lowest in the country, and has remained at that level since it was last increased by the legislature in 1992.
Meanwhile, road and bridge construction costs have nearly doubled during that time span and vehicles have become much more fuel efficient causing a negative compound effect on our scarce transportation dollars.
With a future plan requesting Alabamians to pay a little more, AAI is dedicated to supporting legislation that requires every single dollar raised by that plan to go strictly to road and bridge maintenance and construction only.
We can’t continue to let deficient roads and bridges cost us money, jobs and lives. The time to address this issue is now because: The more we delay, the more we pay.
Drew Harrell is the deputy chief of staff for the Business Council of Alabama and executive director of the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure. For more information about infrastructure issues in Alabama and how you can get involved, visit the AAI website at www.alabamaroads.org/join. (Photo credit: The Decatur Daily, 2018)