Local and National Speakers Highlight Alabama’s Road Needs and Solutions

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – (Feb. 15, 2017) – Increased investment in Alabama’s deficient roads could save lives, property, time, and money by making roads safer, reducing congestion, and supporting long-term economic growth, according to a new report released today by economic and community developers at news conferences in four Alabama cities.

TRIP, a non-profit national transportation research group, and local officials promoted Alabama’s road needs and discussed solutions at news conferences in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery. The news conferences were supported by local chambers of commerce, the Business Council of Alabama, and the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure.

The AAI, a statewide coalition, was created in 2015 to foster improvements in Alabama’s infrastructure in order to sustain and promote economic development, save lives and property, and improve the quality of life for all Alabamians.

“The issue of investing in our state’s infrastructure is about economic development, safety and quality of life for all citizens across the great state of Alabama,” said AAI Chairman Jim Page, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

AAI stakeholders have been conducting a series of meetings to discuss a reachable solution to Alabama’s roads needs, which have not been modernized in 25 years.

TRIP’s report, “Alabama Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Needs for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility”, says that deficient roads and bridges, road congestion, and the lack of desirable safety features, cost state motorists $4.2 billion annually – between $1,300 and $1,700 depending on where they live – in extra vehicle operating costs, faster vehicle depreciation, lost work and delivery time, and wasted fuel use.

“Our roads are the arteries of commerce, and if Alabama expects to remain competitive with our neighboring states, we must invest responsibly in our state and local infrastructure,” BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said in Montgomery.

Canary noted that to take advantage of President Trump’s a commitment to improve the nation’s infrastructure, Alabama must have the matching resources to take advantage of federal funding “or our competitors will.”

“The condition of Alabama’s roads and bridge infrastructure is a jobs and economic development issue,” said BCA board of directors member Brian Hilson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. “Just as we invest in education and training to ensure that we have a competitive workforce, we must also invest in our infrastructure so we can compete and prepare for new and expanding employers.”

Infrastructure deficiencies tell the tale: Substandard bridges are dangerous and often require detours, especially by rural school buses. Traffic crashes killed 4,280 between 2011 and 2015 in Alabama, and drivers spend an average of 24 hours a year in delay at a cost of $533 each in lost time and wasted fuel, TRIP said.

“This is important because improved roads affect the economy,” said Rocky Moretti, TRIP’s director of policy and research.

Importantly, Alabama’s transportation system is critical to the state’s economic health – $426 billion in goods are shipped to and from Alabama with 81 percent of the goods being shipped by truck and another 12 percent by courier services or multiple mode deliveries.

“Alabama’s transportation system is the backbone of the state’s economy and is crucial to our economic competitiveness and quality of life,” BCA board member Tony Cochran said in Huntsville. Cochran is the owner of CK Business Solutions P.C.

Former state Highway Director Perry Hand, president and CEO of Volkert Inc. in Mobile, and the BCA’s first vice chairman, said the Legislature has not increased infrastructure investment since 1992. “As a result, inflation and fuel efficiency standards have decreased the same value of that investment in 1992, which has hindered our ability to make capacity investments in our state’s infrastructure,” Hand said.

In order for Alabama to stay ahead of the game, Hand said “we must increase investment in our roads and bridges in order to provide the safe and efficient transportation system that our Alabama businesses and citizens deserve.”

“We must work together to provide for long-term solutions to address Alabama’s aging and insufficient infrastructure,” Mobile Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bill Sisson said.

It’s a case of fix it later at a greater cost to motorists and lives and economic development or fix it now.

“These conditions are only going to get worse, increasing the additional costs to motorists,” said Carolyn Bonifas Kelly, TRIP associate director of research & communication. “Without adequate funding, Alabama’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth and quality of life of the state’s residents.”