Alabama Ahead of the Game as Infrastructure Week 2019 Gets Underway

This week is the seventh annual Infrastructure Week – a national week of advocacy and education that spotlights the need to revitalize, modernize, and invest in infrastructure. The Business Council of Alabama and the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure have joined hundreds business and advocacy groups from across the country, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, to recognize national Infrastructure Week.

Infrastructure plays a key role in our nation’s economy which is why so many groups and industries have coalesced around the need for a federal infrastructure plan that will invest billions, potentially trillions, of dollars in America’s roads, bridges, rail, water infrastructure, and the list goes on.

While the discussion of a future federal infrastructure plan continues in Washington DC, the Rebuild Alabama plan passed by the legislature earlier this session positions Alabama to take full advantage of whatever happens on the federal level.

A Responsible Investment

The Rebuild Alabama plan, a monumental piece of legislation led by Governor Kay Ivey, will invest more than $3 billion in roads and bridges across the state of Alabama over the next 10 years. Alabama’s road and bridge system has long been in disrepair due to its lack of funding at the state and local levels.

The data that supported the critical need to invest in Alabama’s roads and bridges resulted from extensive research performed by an infrastructure task force coordinated by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who has been a steadfast advocate for addressing Alabama’s road and bridge problems.

Much of that data had to do with how investing or not investing in our infrastructure would impact jobs and economic growth in the state. Based on projections used by the Federal Highway Administration, Rebuild Alabama’s $320 million investment in transportation infrastructure will support 9,000 jobs in Alabama. Additionally, that same investment in Alabama’s roads and bridges will have an estimated $7.5 billion statewide economic impact over the next 10 years based on a recent report published by the Alabama Transportation Institute.

More jobs and being economically competitive with other states were key talking points used by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, who sponsored the Rebuild Alabama bill in the House and worked tirelessly on this issue over the past three years.

Rebuild Alabama is a responsible investment in our state, our businesses, and our people and will yield tangible results in the years to come.

Deliverables and Oversight

Just a month after Rebuild Alabama was signed into law, its key champion, Governor Kay Ivey, gave the green light to four major projects in different areas of the state that had been on the project waiting list for years. The widening of I-565 in Huntsville, the expansion of McFarland Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, the widening of U.S. Highway 82 in Prattville, and the widening of U.S. 411 in Cherokee County were announced as a part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.

Another critical, but less talked about, reform measure included in the Rebuild Alabama package was the oversight measures included in legislation championed by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, who sponsored the Rebuild Alabama bill in the Senate. A separate piece of legislation introduced by Sen. Chambliss established the legislative Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) which consists of 12 Senate members and 12 House members. This committee is charged with providing stronger oversight and accountability on process of transportation spending at the state level in order to ensure a higher level of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Prepared for the Future

Prior to the passage of Rebuild Alabama, our state DOT and local governments lacked the fiscal ability to fulfill current matching requirements for federal funding, let alone any new funding that would come with the passage of a federal infrastructure plan. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, who sponsored legislation to address this issue all the way back in 2015, has been a consistent champion of making Alabama’s roads safer and our bridges more reliable. His willingness to continue the discussion is one of the primary reasons it received so much support in its passage earlier this year.

With the passage of Rebuild Alabama, our state is now prepared to match any additional funding provided by that plan and won’t be left sitting on the sidelines while other states benefit. Even if the federal government does not pass an infrastructure plan, Alabama will still have the additional funding provided by the Rebuild Alabama plan because our leaders chose to invest in Alabama and its people.

One area where we can undoubtedly expect some federal matching funds is with the Rebuild Alabama funding provided for the deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile. Being Alabama’s only deep-water port, the Port of Mobile is critical to Alabama’s statewide economy and the flow of goods not only to our state, but to the entire Southeast. By setting aside dollars to finance a bond issuance of $150 million over a 20-year period, Alabama will be able to draw-down nearly $450 million in federal funds for the project thanks to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The expansion of the Port of Mobile is a huge win for the entire state and will substantially fuel Alabama’s manufacturing and farming industries.

In honor of national Infrastructure Week, the Alabama business community commends all those in state government who supported the Rebuild Alabama plan to create a safer and better Alabama for all.