Improving Alabama roads, bridges focus of proposed infrastructure project

Improving Alabama roads, bridges focus of proposed infrastructure project
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is flanked by elected officials to declare the need for a Rebuild Alabama infrastructure plan for the state. The bridge and road in Maplesville is indicative of others in the state that are hindering growth and development. (Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama needs more roads and better roads. That is the theme of Rebuild Alabama, an infrastructure proposal announced Wednesday morning by Gov. Kay Ivey.

The governor was joined by a host of state and local officials in front of a deteriorating bridge in Maplesville, in Chilton County, highlighting what they described as a growing safety issue across Alabama.

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“This is an issue that is felt by every Alabamian,” Ivey said. “Alabama must address this problem and to be successful, we’ve got to tackle it together.”

The governor, citing information gathered in a study paid for the Business Council of Alabama, said deficient roadways are to blame for one-third of the fatal crashes in Alabama. She added that nearly half of Alabama bridges are more than 50 years old.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, legislators support Rebuild Alabama infrastructure plan from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“It’s time to make our crumbling infrastructure a problem of our past,” Ivey said.

The Rebuild Alabama plan proposes a 10-cent-per-gallon increase in Alabama’s fuel tax, phased in over three years. New revenue generated by the increase would be used for transportation infrastructure improvement, preservation and maintenance projects. A separate portion of the revenues would go to pay a bond to be issued to finance improvements to the ship channel providing access to the facilities of the Alabama State Docks.

Ivey said this plan would do much more than repair broken roads and bridges.

“In a 2017 study of corporate executives, highway accessibility was ranked the No. 1 most important factor when these executives are trying to select a new site for their facility,” she said. “Investing in infrastructure will be our ticket to continue to recruit good jobs, to growing the productivity of our port and by doing so, growing manufacturing, agricultural and retail industries.”

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Several state lawmakers joined the governor in praising the plan.

“This is truly an investment in our state,” said House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia. “When it comes to our economy, which produces jobs, which produces a better quality of life for Alabamians, these are the things that we need to be looking at. When we look at moving commerce up and down our highways, when we look at unemployment in some of the counties in our state and trying to recruit business, our infrastructure is vital to where we are.”

“We want to come in and address this issue in a proactive manner and not be called into a special session because a school bus has gone through a bad bridge,” added Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.

“This plan is a comprehensive plan to work for the state of Alabama,” said Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. “It is not the easiest thing to do because a lot is going to look at this as raising a tax on the people, but all the complaints I get from citizens about my new car and these potholes, this is an opportunity for us to make it right.”

“It affects the whole state of Alabama,” said Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville. “We must do what we need to do to improve our roads, to improve our bridges so we can provide a better future for not just for me, but for my children and my grandchildren.”

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State business leaders quickly announced their support.

“The road to our future must be paved,” said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt. “Alabama’s transportation system is the backbone of the state’s economy and is crucial to our economic growth, and I commend Gov. Ivey for making this a priority of her administration.”

McCutcheon said he intends to introduce the bill “very early” in the upcoming legislative session, in hopes of getting it out of committee and onto the House floor for debate within a few weeks. The Legislature begins its session March 5.

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