Now that the five public hearings on Alabama’s transportation needs are history the next step in upgrading Alabama’s roads and bridges is to urge legislators to enhance the investment in our surface lifelines for commerce.
Nothing is more important to Alabama than infrastructure, which is directly linked to our safety, economic prosperity, and quality of life. Efficiency of Alabama’s highways and bridges is critical to a healthy state economy that depends on ease of access for customers, markets, material, and workers.
Local Chambers of Commerce and the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure partnered with the Alabama Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee to discuss the needs of roads and bridges prior to the 2016 regular legislative session that will include an attempt to secure transportation infrastructure funding.
Five meetings were held. They began Jan. 7 in Northport and continued Jan. 19 in Montevallo, Jan. 26 in Mobile, Jan. 28 in Dothan, and concluded Monday in Decatur.
The AAI meetings were hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce respectively. The BCA is a member of the AAI.
These meetings were timed perfectly prior to the start of the 2016 regular legislative session and offered the public, local officials, business leaders, and their employees the opportunity to provide input and learn about how to maintain and improve Alabama’s important surface transportation system,” said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary.
“The issue now moves into the Legislature where further encouragement will help legislators grasp the importance to Alabama businesses and to out-of-state businesses that trade with Alabama companies of a well-maintained transportation system,” Canary said.
The meetings were well attended; more than 180 men and women attended the Jan. 26 Mobile meeting.
At that meeting, BCA 2016 Chairman Tommy Lee, President and CEO of Vulcan Inc. in Foley, said the AAI is a grassroots advocacy coalition that promotes financially-responsible investment in Alabama’s roads and infrastructure.
“Our current funding model is not sustainable,” Lee said. “We cannot ignore that costs are increasing and revenues are decreasing.”
The last time Alabama’s Legislature increased transportation investment was in 1992. Since then vehicles have become more fuel efficient and the cost of infrastructure improvement has increased. Both have served to decrease the effectiveness of the state’s investment..
An investment increase makes sense. According to the Federal Highway Administration, for every $1 invested in roads, we will likely see $5.20 in benefits.
The AAI is working for a responsible infrastructure investment that includes measures to reform the current system of managing, operating, and investing that is transparent, accountable. Any new revenue must be dedicated totally to road and bridge construction and maintenance and placed in a fund protected from diversions to other state programs or agencies.
“It is our responsibility as Alabamians to maintain, repair and expand our infrastructure, and now is the time to embrace that responsibility,” said Jim Page, President and CEO of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce and a member of AAI. “Thankfully, with additional investment in Alabama’s infrastructure come real, tangible benefits.”