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MY TURN: Investing in Alabama’s roads, future

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As Alabamians, we work hard and take pride in the things in which we invest our money. Whether it’s our home, automobile or our children’s education, we think carefully about how we spend money and exercise fiscal responsibility.

With that in mind, it might be time to start thinking more about the money that we invest in our roads and bridges. Most of us travel across state highways and U.S. interstates every day to get to work, buy groceries and visit family. Whether we realize it or not, roads are a vital part of our daily lives.

Unfortunately, we are putting ourselves and our families in danger nearly every time we travel our roadways. In fact, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2015 Report Card for Alabama’s Infrastructure, approximately 50 percent of state highways in Alabama are in fair, poor or very poor condition. Even more alarming is the fact that one-third of all fatal car crashes are the result of roadway features, according to the ASCE. As you can see, people are losing their lives due to the poor condition of our roads, creating a “silent crisis” that more and more people are finally beginning to talk about. Thankfully, we can fix it.

Many of the repairs and maintenance projects for these roads and bridges are being delayed, mainly due to lack of funding. One of the primary reasons that funding is declining is that cars today are much more fuel efficient than they were in 1992 — the last time our state increased the gasoline tax.

To give you a sense of how funding has changed, think of the following example provided by the Alabama Department of Transportation: In 1994, if you drove 12,000 miles in a Honda Accord built at that time, you paid about $185 in gasoline tax over the course of a year. In 2013, if you traveled the same number of miles in a new Honda Accord, you paid $142 for the entire year. Although it’s nice to pay less, it’s easy to recognize what that lower price tag means for our roads and bridges.

Our state highways and county roads depend on revenue from the state, not the federal government. It’s our responsibility as Alabamians to maintain, repair and expand our infrastructure, and now is the time to embrace that responsibility.

Thankfully, with additional investment in Alabama’s infrastructure come real, tangible benefits. In fact, according to the Federal Highway Administration, for every $1 invested in roads, we will likely see $5.20 in benefits.

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From long-term job growth to lower costs on consumer goods, we will see and experience positive economic outcomes in all 67 Alabama counties. As a result of those outcomes, Alabamians can feel a great sense of pride and satisfaction as our great state better positions itself to compete with our southern neighbors. We are winners, and it’s time to bring that mentality to our roads and bridges.

By generating additional revenue that will be protected for infrastructure projects, Alabamians will be protecting themselves and their children, investing in our state and making Alabama an even better place to live.

Keep in mind: Our Roads. Our Future. Our Responsibility.

Jim Page is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and a member of the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure.

Originally published on Tuscaloosanews.com 1/20/15

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