Gas tax bill to improve Alabama roads, infrastructure clears first hurdle

gas station pump

​A​ bill that would raise the state gasoline and diesel tax by 4 cents a gallon — if passed, it would be the first increase since 1982 —​ ​has advanced in the Alabama legislature​.

HB 487 was approved ​by a voice vote in the state’s House Transportation, Utilities & Infrastructure Committee ​on Tuesday.​

Sponsored by Tuscaloosa-Republican state Rep. Bill Poole, the legislation endeavors to provide much-needed additional funding to enhance and improve Alabama’s transportation system at both the state and local levels by increasing the state gasoline and diesel fuel tax.

“Our crumbling infrastructure is an issue that affects all 67 counties and every single city in the state,” said William Canary, President and CEO of BCA, a non-partisan, statewide business association representing the interests and concerns of nearly 1 million working Alabamians through its member companies. “Now is the time to address infrastructure in Alabama, and on behalf of Alabama’s business community, I thank Rep. Poole for his leadership on this important issue, and I commend the members of the House Transportation, Utilities & Infrastructure Committee for recognizing that we cannot continue to ignore Alabama’s crumbling infrastructure.”

Counties and cities will receive funding from a $1.2 billion bond issue for improving and replacing roads and bridges with emphasis on safety, bridges replacement, and the enhancement of the state’s neglected Farm-to-Market Road System. The state Department of Transportation will receive funding from a $1.2 billion bond issue for state-maintained highways and bridges to enhance safety, improve congestion and connectivity, and increase Alabama’s economic competitiveness.

“Alabama’s transportation infrastructure is an issue that affects every citizen in every part of the state. Our crumbling infrastructure is an issue that affects all 67 counties and every single city in the state,” said Jim Page, chairman of Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure, a statewide advocacy coalition focused on fixing Alabama’s infrastructure. “Across our nation, we are seeing states address the issue of funding their infrastructure with various revenue proposals and we have to make sure that Alabama does not fall behind.”

The bill will also  provide the state with money to match and leverage any funding provided from the anticipated federal infrastructure program that is a priority of the Donald Trump administration. Local governments are also afforded the opportunity to use up to 20 percent of revenue for federal infrastructure matching should there be a local element in the new program.

“We must be ready to capitalize on President Trump’s infrastructure plan or we run the risk of Alabama being left out of the equation,” said Page while testifying to the House committee Tuesday.

“We cannot continue to ignore the fact that economic development and infrastructure are one in the same,” Canary added.  “From our highways and bridges to our ports and waterways as well as our rail and intermodal facilities, these networks are Alabama’s arteries for commerce. Their repair and maintenance carry a continually growing price tag that we currently cannot afford. It’s been 25 years since Alabama last increased its infrastructure investment. During that quarter-century, vehicle fuel economy and road construction inflation minimized the ability to pay for improvements.”

Last year, the committee approved a similar 6 cents per gallon increase, but it did not pass the full state House.

The bill has wide support from across the state, including:

  • Alabama Asphalt Pavement Association
  • Alabama Association of 9-1-1 Districts
  • Alabama Bridge Contractors Association
  • Alabama Concrete Industries Association
  • Alabama Farmers Federation
  • Associated General Contractors of Alabama
  • Alabama Trucking Association
  • Alabama Road Builders Association
  • Alabama Retail Association
  • Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure
  • American Council of Engineering Companies of Alabama
  • American Society of Civil Engineers – Alabama Section
  • Associated Builders and Contractors – Alabama Chapter
  • Association of County Commissions of Alabama
  • Association of County Engineers of Alabama
  • Business Council of Alabama
  • Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama
  • Coalition for Regional Transportation
  • Emergency Management Association.