MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey held a press conference with supporters of her Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan Friday and unveiled a new report from the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.
The newly released report is shedding light on the state’s infrastructure issues, particularly how “doing nothing” is endangering the safety and well-being of Alabama’s residents.
Ivey is calling on the legislature to raise the state’s fuel tax rate for the first time in nearly three decades. She says the state’s infrastructure is crumbling and believes a 10-cent per gallon tax increase on fuel purchases, implemented over a three-year period, is the solution.
The Association of County Commissions of Alabama’s new “The Cost of Doing Nothing” report highlights the current and future conditions of infrastructure on a statewide level and within each county.
The data comes from a November survey in which ACCA collected data from the engineering departments of all 67 counties.
In the report, ACCA argues nearly 30 years of insufficient funding to county governments, county roads, and bridges are costing residents time, money and sometimes their lives.
“The lives of nearly 700 Alabamians are lost too soon every year on our county roads; fire trucks and ambulances are forced to take longer routes to avoid weight-restricted county bridges; residents are dangerously dodging the potholes and deteriorating shoulders of county roads on their way to work every day; school children and residents are spending countless hours detouring around county bridges in need of replacement; and new jobs and new revenue are being given to other states because of our infrastructure’s inability to move industry products,” ACCA said in the report.
Currently, the state is on a 114-year cycle for resurfacing county roadways, but the life expectancy of Alabama’s asphalt is around 15 years, according to ACCA. At the same time, the material from which Alabama’s bridges are constructed has a life expectancy of around 50 years. After that time period, weight restrictions for those aging bridges are put into place.
“The decreasing value of counties’ infrastructure dollars, has resulted in more than 45 percent of current county bridges being 50 plus years old and less than two percent are scheduled for replacement within the next five years,” ACCA indicated in the report.
So, why can’t counties afford to maintain infrastructure? According to the report, county infrastructure budgets rely heavily on a share of the state gasoline tax.
Ivey says the new revenue from the increased gas tax would be split among the state, county and local governments while a separate portion of the revenue would finance improvements to the ship channel of the Alabama State Docks.
Despite a raise of five cents to the state’s gas tax in 1992, ACCA says rising inflation rates, construction costs, population, registered vehicles, miles driven, system capacity and fuel efficiency have contributed to the decline in funding to infrastructure.
“Working with what is essentially less than a 1992 budget, counties are clearly far from capable of maintaining their 44,788 miles of paved roads and 8,661 bridges,” ACCA said in the report.
The report says 48 percent of paved county roads have been resurfaced, patched or constructed since 2000, but 52 percent have not been touched. When it comes to county bridges, the report says 17 percent have been replaced or constructed since 2000, but at the same time 83 percent have not been touched.
For example, in 2018 Montgomery County maintained 575 road miles. According to ACCA, 184 of those miles needed to be resurfaced every five years, but only 146 of those were.
When it comes to bridges, the county has a total of 205 bridges, 51 of which are 50 plus years old. According to ACCA, 20.5 of those should be replaced every five years but the county will not be able to replace any in the next five years.