Imagine you are driving on a long road trip, and the warning light indicating a low oil level appears on your car’s instrument panel. As a result, you have two choices from which to choose – either pull over at the next exit and spend $5.00 for a quart of oil or keep driving until your engine blows and requires several thousand dollars of replacement costs.
For decades, Alabama has been given warning signs that its road and bridge infrastructure was crumbling and in need of attention. Potholes plague major highways, accidents have become more frequent, and a frightening number of bridges have been deemed too unsafe for school buses carrying our children to cross.
Rather than addressing the infrastructure problems as they arose, Alabama ignored the warning indicators, and now the repair bill has grown exponentially.
Part of the problem is the fact our state’s pool of available transportation dollars, which are mostly generated by the earmarked gas taxes you pay at the pump, have shrunk over the past several years because more efficient cars use less fuel.
Even a cursory view of statistics backs up the veracity of these facts. A prominent study recently determined that roughly 50 percent of Alabama’s state highways are in “fair, poor or very poor” condition and gave an alarming “D+” grade to our state-maintained roadways.
In addition, Alabama has more than 1,200 structurally deficient bridges and nearly 2,500 weight restricted bridges across the state.
These deficiencies cause public safety to be threatened as it is estimated that one-third of all fatal car crashes in Alabama can be attributed to road conditions and features. Alabama also ranks fifth in the nation among states where “drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal traffic accident.”
Economic development and job creation are hampered as a nationwide survey of corporate executives ranked roads and highways as the second most important factor when choosing among states to locate facilities. Seven of our sister southeastern states spend more money than Alabama to maintain their roads and bridges, and roughly 950,000 jobs in our state are completely dependent upon our transportation network.
All the facts, examples, and statistics lead to one reality – Alabama must raise additional earmarked revenue to maintain our roads and bridges.
The time has come for a plan that significantly addresses this critical problem plaguing our state.
I would like to commend Governor Kay Ivey for proposing her Rebuild Alabama plan. This plan will not only provide funding to address current road and bridge needs at the state, county and city level, but it provides our transportation system with stable funding to allow us to plan for the future of the next generation.
The Rebuild Alabama plan also provides strong accountability with the new revenue to ensure it goes to infrastructure projects only – no salaries, purchase or maintenance of equipment, or buildings. The new revenue will be placed in the newly created Rebuild Alabama Fund and will be prohibited from being transferred to other state agencies.
This level of accountability is what Alabamians require and deserve, and nothing less.
I would also like to applaud my friend and colleague, Rep. Bill Poole, for his continued commitment to this issue. By sponsoring the Rebuild Alabama Act in the Alabama House of Representatives, he is showing true political courage that he is not afraid to do the right thing for Alabama’s future.
For this reason, I am standing beside Rep. Poole in support of the Rebuild Alabama Act and I encourage all of my colleagues in the Alabama House of Representatives to do the same.
Together, we as a state can turn this obstacle into an opportunity.
The time to act is now, and I believe the Rebuild Alabama Act is the vehicle that will carry Alabama to new levels of progress, job creation, and economic prosperity for years to come. I invite you to come along for the ride.
By Representative Steve Clouse
Alabama House District 93