By now everyone’s seen the sign mix up at malfunction junction here in Birmingham. It would just be another government employee snafu (or more appropriately a bunch of snafus because someone designed that, someone made it, someone transported it and someone installed it all the while no one catching the error) that has gone viral on social media, but I think it’s bigger than that. It’s just another indication that Alabama’s Department of Transportation (ALDOT) keeps missing the mark.
It’s clear: we have serious transportation problems in our state. From failing roads and bridges to general maintenance issues, there’s no shortage of projects for ALDOT to prioritize, so why do they continue to focus on the wrong projects?
One look at the “Fix My Roads” project on Facebook — a page designed to allow citizens across the state to report roads and bridges that are in need of repair by taking photos/videos and posting them on this page along with a first person narrative — and you can see what Alabamians across the state would consider most important. But ALDOT rarely seems to prioritize what Alabama citizens do.
Nevertheless the inevitable solution is to give ALDOT more money. Perhaps ALDOT actually needs more money. There is no denying the sad state of affairs when it comes to our infrastructure, but I have a novel idea for ALDOT spend the money you have already better. Prioritize. That’s what families and businesses around the state have to do on a daily basis.
In a column I wrote for AL.Com that was published today, “Where ALDOT and two mayors get it wrong it’s up to Governor Ivey to get it right,” I make the case for John Cooper the Director of ALDOT and Governor Kay Ivey to take a look at what’s really necessary in our state and start there.
We need our elected officials, at every level of government, in addition to those they appoint or hire, to work for the citizens they represent and prioritize of projects that will have the greatest benefit for everyone.
The list of infrastructure projects that require funding from ALDOT and the states limited budget is never ending; and they aren’t concentrated to one area of the state. From I-595 in Huntsville, to I-10 in Mobile, the mess that is Birmingham highways our needs throughout the state are great.
It seems like a novel idea, but instead Cooper and others want to spend taxpayer money with little to no evidence of need. If Ivey doesn’t step in, or Cooper doesn’t step up, how can they both look at taxpayers with a straight face and say that they’re true conservatives calling on tax increases? Why should either be given more money if they can’t spend what they have efficiently?
Read the whole column to see an egregious example of a $87 million (before cost overruns of course) project that Cooper is pushing, a bridge that locals call the #BridgeToNoWhere.
Here are the bills related to increasing gas taxes from last year as described by National Conference on State Legislatures. You can safely bet these bills will be back and in a non-election year your elected officials are more likely to pass them:
2018 Alabama Road and Bridge Rehabilitation and Improvement
Status: Failed – Adjourned – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:* 2/6/2018
Author: Dial (R) Additional Authors: Beasley (D);Allen Ge (R);Holley (R);Whatley (R);Livingston (R)
Topics: Bonding and debt, State taxes on gasoline and diesel, Transportation appropriations
Summary: Provides for the establishment and incorporation of the Alabama Road and Bridge Rehabilitation and Improvement Authority, establishes the ATRIP-II Projects Special Fund, provides that the authority may issue bonds in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding a certain amount of which a certain amount thereof shall be issued to finance county and municipal road and bridge rehabilitation and improvement projects and the balance thereof issued to finance state road and bridge.
History: Click for History
2018 Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Taxation
Status: Failed – Adjourned – SENATE
Date of Last Action:* 1/9/2018
Author: Orr (R)
Topics: State taxes on gasoline and diesel
Summary: Relates to gasoline and diesel fuel taxation, authorizes a county commission to call for a referendum on the levy of an excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel not to exceed a certain amount per gallon for specific road and bridge projects identified by the county prior to the referendum, provides that the excise tax could only be in effect for a period not to exceed a certain time period, provides for subsequent local referendums asking that new levies be authorized.
Status: Failed – Adjourned – House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee
Date of Last Action:* 2/1/2018
Author: Mooney (R)
Topics: State taxes on gasoline and diesel, Transportation appropriations
Summary: Relates to gasoline and diesel fuel taxation, authorizes a county commission to call for a referendum on the levy of an excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel not to exceed five cents ($.05) per gallon for specific road and bridge projects identified by the county prior to the referendum, provides that the excise tax could only be in effect for a period not to exceed five years, provides for subsequent local referendums asking that new levies be authorized.
2018 Colbert County
Status: Vetoed – Pocket Vetoed by Governor
Date of Last Action:* 04/08/2018 – Vetoed
Author: Stutts (R)
Topics: Local transportation funding, State taxes on gasoline and diesel
Summary: Relates to Colbert County, authorizes the Colbert County Commission to levy a road and bridge construction excise tax on gasoline and other motor fuels, provides for the distribution of the proceeds to the county road and bridge fund to be used by the county and municipalities in the county for road and bridge construction in the county.