1 year ago

Report: Inadequate infrastructure costs average Alabama driver over $1,300 per year

MONTGOMERY — A nonpartisan, in-depth report on the state of Alabama’s infrastructure conditions released Tuesday confirms what previous research has shown: inadequate infrastructure funding is costing the average Alabamian hundreds of dollars in extra repair and operating costs, in addition to lost time.

TRIP, a national transportation research group, broke its Alabama research into seven regional reports, besides releasing its statewide findings. The group also organized local press conferences corresponding to the seven regional reports, with Montgomery, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Anniston occurring Monday, followed by Decatur-Huntsville, Mobile and Florence on Tuesday.

While the average Alabamian anecdotally can attest to the need for improved infrastructure across the state and in their own community, TRIP’s reports turn those everyday frustrations into tangible numbers and real dollar amounts. From a public policy standpoint, the data is invaluable — and eye-opening.

The bottom line

For state legislators set to consider Governor Kay Ivey’s infrastructure plan (which will be announced Wednesday), one of the unmissable facts in the report is that the buying power of the current state gas tax is now less than 50 percent of what it was in 1992 when the tax was last adjusted.

Additionally, TRIP’s report conclusively shows that raising the gas tax by a reasonable number will actually put considerable money back in the average Alabamian’s pocket because of savings related to vehicle crash and operating costs alone.

The research advised that the total amount of vehicular operating costs caused statewide by deficient infrastructure is $2 billion annually. The financial cost of excess traffic crashes due to insufficient infrastructure is an additional $1.8 billion every year.

The third type of cost associated with infrastructure needs is that of lost time and wasted fuel due to congestion. TRIP said that another $1.5 billion is wasted annually across Alabama in this important category.

Added together, these three separate costs associated with underfunded Alabama infrastructure amounts to $5.3 billion per year — a staggering amount of money that is largely coming out of the pockets of hardworking families across the state.

“Due to inadequate state and local funding, 30 percent of major roads and highways in Alabama are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on rough roads costs the average Alabama driver $507 annually in additional vehicle operating costs [alone],” the report explained.

“From 2013 to 2017, 4,507 people were killed in traffic crashes in Alabama,” the research said. “Traffic crashes imposed a total of $5.5 billion in economic costs in Alabama in 2017 and traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor imposed $1.8 billion in economic costs.”

Then, when it comes to congestion-related costs, TRIP wrote, “The state’s roads are seeing unprecedented levels of traffic, with the number of vehicle miles of travel per lane mile in Alabama increasing 40 percent from 1990 to 2015. Congested roads choke commuting and commerce and cost Alabama drivers $1.5 billion each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel. In the most congested urban areas, drivers lose up to $990 and nearly one full work week per year sitting in congestion.”

Broken down regionally, the total annual cost of insufficient infrastructure to the average Alabamian is $1,301 in Anniston-Oxford-Gadsden, $1,846 in Birmingham, $1,467 in Florence, $1,307 in Decatur-Huntsville, $1,576 in Mobile, $1,339 in Montgomery and $1,713 in Tuscaloosa.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

In addition to the tremendous amount of money that insufficient infrastructure costs the average Alabamian, industrial and economic development are also severely impacted.

“The health and future growth of Alabama’s economy is riding on its transportation system,” TRIP noted.

“Each year, $432 billion in goods are shipped to, from and within sites in Alabama, mostly by truck. Increases in passenger and freight movement will place further burdens on the state’s already deteriorated and congested network of roads and bridges,” the report outlined. “The design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in Alabama support 65,068 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. These workers earn $2.1 billion annually. Approximately 940,000 full-time jobs in Alabama in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation network.”

Recommendation

TRIP emphasized that the buying power of the state gas tax, last adjusted in 1992 “has been more than cut in half by inflation and increased fuel economy.”

Unfortunately, this means that the vast majority of Alabama’s current transportation budget is devoted to preserving the existing system rather than adding needed capacity.

TRIP explicitly affirmed a separate 2019 report by the University of Alabama’s Alabama Transportation Institute and Alabama Transportation Policy Research Center that said, through 2040, the Yellowhammer State should be spending a minimum of $600 million annually on additional roadway capacity to allow the state to be economically competitive.

“An annual investment of $800 million in additional roadway capacity would optimize Alabama’s economic opportunities,” TRIP concluded.

Montgomery press conference

At the capital city’s regional press conference Monday morning, a researcher and co-author of the TRIP report spoke alongside local officials and Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure Executive Director Drew Harrell.

TRIP’s Carolyn Kelly said, “[W]ithout additional funding, Alabama’s roads and bridges may deteriorate further, the already-high traffic fatality rate may rise even more and drivers and businesses will lose time and money stuck in congestion in a deficient system.”

She said that the longer Alabama waits to address the issue, the more it will cost.

“While the [annual] costs are already startling high, they’ll grow even higher in the future without adequate transportation funding and without an adequate effort to improve the condition and the efficiency of Alabama’s transportation network,” Kelly advised. “The reality is the state faces a significant and growing transportation shortfall.”

“Increasing investment in Alabama’s network of roads, bridges and transit is vital to boosting the state’s economy and the quality of life of its residents,” she added.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange also stressed that investing in the Port of Mobile must be a statewide infrastructure priority, as the port’s economic impact is felt all across Alabama.

RELATED: Legislators move to add accountability, transparency to infrastructure spending

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Fmr Gov. Don Siegelman appears to be using outrage over George Floyd to sell new book

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to sell his new book is using robocalls that appear to reference the current unrest over George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody.

On Thursday afternoon, a Yellowhammer News reporter received a robocall from 1 (800) 890-5875, a number listed as “Robocaller” by the phone protection company NoMoRobo. The voiceover of the robocall was apparently recorded by Siegelman himself.

The message began, “Don Siegelman, your governor here. We’ve got to protect people from the abuse of power by police, prosecutors, or presidents.”

“My new book, Stealing our Democracy, is a wakeup call to action. It’s also number one among new releases on amazon.com,” the message added.

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An individual from the Wiregrass told Yellowhammer News that she also received the voicemail.

In addition to that, at least one Twitter user appeared to have received the robocall.

Siegelman was convicted on June 29, 2006, of conspiracy, bribery and fraud.

The former Alabama Democratic governor appeared to lump in his claimed unjust treatment by the authorities with the death of George Floyd.

Listen:

Siegelman is currently promoting his new book “Stealing Our Democracy.”

Yellowhammer News’ request for comment from Siegelman was not immediately returned. A message was left on his personal cell phone number.

He claimed the book is “#1 among new releases on amazon.com”

Yellowhammer News examined the new releases chart on Amazon.com, which revealed that Siegelman’s book is not in the top 100 best selling new releases.

However, the book is #1 in the sub-subcategory “Urban, State & Local Government Law.”

Urban, State & Local Government Law is one of 12 sub-subcategories of the “Administrative Law” subcategory.

The “Administrative Law” subcategory is one of 23 subcategories under the category “Law.”

“Law” is one of 36 categories into which Amazon divides the kinds new-release books that it sells.

As a matter of record, the book is only available for pre-order. It has not been released to the public yet.

The former governor’s book claims that his downfall and conviction of felony bribery were part of a politically motivated prosecution coordinated by Karl Rove.

His book will be released to the public on June 16.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 hours ago

Two charged with capital murder in slaying of Moody PD officer

Two suspects have been charged with capital murder in the case of slain Moody Police Department officer Stephen Williams.

The two suspects are 27-year-old male Tapero Corlene Johnson and 28-year-old female Marquisha Anissa Tyson. Both are from Birmingham and will be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

At a press conference Friday, St. Clair County Sheriff Billy Murray described said the investigation is still continuing and described it as “complex and intense.”

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Williams was posthumously promoted to lieutenant at the press conference on Thursday by Moody Police Chief Thomas Hunt.

Hunt said Williams had remarked at times that he would like to achieve the rank of lieutenant someday, and now he will forever be known as Lt. Stephen Williams.

The District Attorney for St. Clair County said the two suspects had been in police custody since the shooting on Tuesday night.

Investigators say they have determined that Johnson and Tyson fired weapons at Williams who was responding to a disturbance at a Super 8 Motel.

A GoFundMe page to help Williams’ family has been raising money in recent days.

Williams served the public as a police officer for 23 years before being killed in the line of duty this week.

Governor Kay Ivey commented on the incident earlier in the week, saying Williams “died a hero.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

4 hours ago

Data shows Alabama nursing homes performing better than national average for COVID-19 cases, deaths

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday released facility-specific COVID-19 data for nursing homes across the United States, and an analysis of the data shows Alabama fairing better than the national average.

The data was collected on a mandatory basis by the CDC and currently covers through the week ending on May 31.

Nationwide, the average number of confirmed coronavirus cases per 1,000 residents in nursing homes was 91.2, while the average number of deaths from the disease per 1,000 residents was 30.2.

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In Alabama, both of those numbers were significantly lower than the national average, at 64.9 and 20.9, respectively.

Alabama Nursing Home Association president and CEO Brandon Farmer issued a statement on the data’s release.

“According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Alabama nursing homes report fewer cases of COVID-19 per 1,000 residents and fewer deaths from COVID-19 per 1,000 residents than the national average,” he confirmed.

“Because we are on the front lines of fighting COVID-19, we expect the number of COVID-19 cases to rise as more tests are administered and the data is added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) system. The Alabama Nursing Home Association hopes this data will be used to prioritize resources for skilled nursing facilities,” Farmer advised.

“Alabama nursing homes have been transparent from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he continued. “Our members have reported cases to their local county health department and the Alabama Department of Public Health from the start. In May, we began reporting cases to the CDC. Facilities also inform residents and their family representatives and employees of cases in their buildings. We are following the guidelines set forth by the multiple state and federal agencies that regulate our sector. No other business or health care provider reports COVID-19 cases to more government entities and people than nursing homes.”

Nationwide, nursing homes reported 95,515 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 31,782 deaths through May 31. Nursing homes in Alabama reported 1,000 confirmed cases and 335 deaths.

Moving forward, CMS will release the next round of data on June 18. After that date, new data should be released weekly.

“The Alabama Nursing Home Association and its members will continue to work with local, state and federal leaders to address the needs of nursing home residents and employees,” Farmer concluded.

The CMS data can be viewed here.

As of Friday at 2:00 p.m., the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 19,073 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, with 672 deaths.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

NFIB survey of Alabama business owners shows ongoing COVID-19 related fears

A new study from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) showed that an overwhelming majority of proprietors are nervous about several aspects of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their business.

Yellowhammer News reported in the first week of May that 70% of the NFIB’s membership across the United States was concerned about individuals filing frivolous lawsuits claiming a business had caused them to catch COVID-19.

A poll from the Alabama division of NFIB this week shows that 69% of businesses in the Yellowhammer State remain nervous about lawsuits, and roughly equal amounts are worried whether customers might come back and that it may prove difficult to comply with ongoing regulations.

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The top results of the survey as follows:

  • 70% of owners say they’re very or moderately concerned about getting customers back.
  • 69% are concerned about managing the health and safety of their customers; 66% are concerned about managing the health and safety of employees.
  • 69% are concerned with having to comply with new regulations related to the coronavirus.
  • 68% are concerned about finding an adequate supply of supplies such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant.

NFIB state director Rosemary Elebash told Yellowhammer News Friday that the survey was administered to businesses in every county and every city with a significant population.

“It wasn’t just NFIB members,” Elebash added about the survey, saying the group had worked with a number of trade associations to increase the amount of responses.

The NFIB also continues to strongly support Senator Arthur Orr’s (R-Decatur) bill to grant civil immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits to businesses in Alabama.

Elebash noted in a release that Orr’s bill would be “one of NFIB’s top priorities” if Governor Kay Ivey calls a special session later in the year.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

5 hours ago

Tuberville: Nationwide unrest linked to ‘education and jobs’

Many argue there is much more to the civil unrest across the nation than the lone incident in Minneapolis involving the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the police department. Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville indicated he agrees with that.

During an appearance on Huntsville WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Tuberville, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said based on his interactions with people on the campaign trail, there is a longing to get back to a sense of normalcy in the wake of the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I speak to eight to ten places a day — groups are worried, obviously. I think they’re getting a little more confident they can go out and be around other people,” he said. “And we’re just hoping we can just put this pandemic, and it is a problem, it is serious — again, you’ve got to protect yourself. It’s not going away. It is still here, especially if you’re having health problems and those things. That will go away — but then all of a sudden we get hit with this civil unrest, and again — we’re all Americans. We’re all in this together. We’ve got to find a solution.”

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Tuberville said he is asked for his thoughts by voters while on the trail, to which he said he points to “education and jobs,” and the erosion of the American middle class.

“I had a group ask me today, ‘Coach, what do you think the problem is?’ Education and jobs. We don’t have a middle class anymore,” Tuberville stated. “There are people out there that don’t have the opportunity to advance in this country like they want to. This is not a black issue. This is not a white issue. This is an American issue. We shipped our jobs to China, bottom line. We’re finding out more and more about that every day, and we’ve got to give the opportunity for young men and women to have a chance to grow in this country, and give them a fair chance. Unfortunately, our middle class has dissipated. We have more drugs in this country, and a lot of people take other options. We got to understand — we’re all in this together, 340 million people. We’re either going to make it together or not make together.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.