State Senate Majority Ldr Reed lists rural broadband, waterways at top of Alabama infrastructure priorities
MONTGOMERY — Often when the topic of infrastructure concerns is raised by Alabama politicos, the discussion will almost immediately go to road and bridge deficiencies around the state. This is especially true as the Alabama legislature is likely to consider raising the gasoline tax in the 2019 session to finance improvements to the state’s transportation system.
However, State Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) is quick to note there are other pressing infrastructure concerns beyond Alabama’s highway system.
In an address to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama conference at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday, Reed stressed his desire to enhance the state’s access to high-speed internet and improve Alabama’s system of navigatable waterways.
The Walker County Republican explained that how in his backyard in nearby Winston County, the lack of broadband internet access almost forced out a company, which he suggested was proof that it was an area of concern worthy of the legislature’s attention.
“There’s been a focus on growing broadband access in rural Alabama, and I know that’s a big deal in my area,” Reed said. “I’ve seen a couple of my colleagues from Winston County. We had difficult circumstances related to broadband access where we were going to lose a significant employer if we didn’t come up with some kind of one-time solution to try and figure that out. Thankfully we were able to do it, but that problem presents itself over and over again and will continue to be a requirement that is something we got to look at at the state level.”
Reed acknowledged that the infrastructure issue was also seen as a priority by Gov. Kay Ivey, and he once again maintained the need for improvements in the area of broadband access.
“Number one, I think the governor’s number one focus — she told me that personally — and that is infrastructure,” Reed said. “The definition of infrastructure, in looking at, of course — roads, bridge, issues that you guys have to work with and deal with on a daily basis. But also, infrastructure that includes broadband access.”
He likened the broadband issue to the arrival of electricity to rural areas, which made a big difference in lifestyle of Americans residing in rural areas.
“If Alabamians and Alabama businesses do not have access to high-speed internet, then the opportunity for us to grow economically and industrially in rural areas of our state is going to be limited. And so, that is a big issue. That is a big topic the legislature has worked on and will continue to look for ways to impact that and deal with it.”
On the topic of navigatable waterways and ports, he argued they were relevant to the entire state beyond just the state’s coastal areas.
“Do you realize that 40 percent of everything that goes out of the Port of Mobile is coal? It’s going to places in Japan and Europe, and we have a lot of coal in Alabama. We have a lot of coal in my area.”
“Those kind of topics are important if you look for ways to strengthen infrastructure at the port, what does that mean economically for all of Alabama? It’s significant. Those type of issues will continue to be looked at and dealt with.”
The Jasper Republican said that the “devil was in the details” as it pertained to how the legislature would tackle infrastructure concerns during next year’s legislative session. He added that as a representative for a rural area, he would work to see that resources are dedicated to the road and bridge needs for rural Alabama, which was received with applause from the commissioners gathered in the audience.
“I think that is an important issue for all of us as we look to move forward and try to determine what’s best,” Reed said. “We’re looking for what’s best in Alabama. There will be a little back-and-forth with that.”