ALDOT: Infrastructure law will fund road improvements statewide, but not ‘mega-projects’

ALDOT: Infrastructure law will fund road improvements statewide, but not ‘mega-projects’

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The recently enacted federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will allow more road projects to get done in every Alabama county, but the state says it isn’t enough funding to tackle mega-projects.

“The infrastructure act will enable the Alabama Department of Transportation to push forward with projects across the state aimed at safety, better bridges, resurfacing roadways and reducing congestion in big cities and small towns,” ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris said in a written explanation of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package’s impact on Alabama roads.

The act provides much-needed stability for Alabama’s road and bridge network over the next five-plus years, Harris said.

“The new federal funding dovetails nicely into our State Transportation Improvement Program which allows communities to identify priorities, and it ensures that funding is spread evenly and fairly across Alabama.”

In total, the IIJA contains about $5.5 billion for Alabama roads and transportation, spread across 12 categories. Harris said in the road and bridge categories, the new act represents an increase of about $170 million in federal funding per year, about 17 percent higher than the previous five-year period.

“It will be a tremendous benefit to use the increased funding to advance projects during the next few years that might otherwise languish somewhere outside a five- to 10-year window,” Harris said. “The average Alabamian will see local projects move forward. It’s not a magic bullet, and there’s not enough new money to tackle the largest of needs, but the progress with road and bridge improvements will be noticeable in all 67 counties across Alabama.”

New in the act are categories of funding not directly related to road improvements or construction. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, that includes for Alabama:

  • $402 million to improve public transportation options across the state;
  • $142 million for airport infrastructure;
  • $128 million to reduce transportation-related emissions;
  • $79 million for the expansion of electric vehicle charging networks in the state;
  • $44 million for commercial motor vehicle safety efforts to reduce crashes;

Harris said there has been some misunderstanding about the act. He said it’s not new federal money.

“… this is baseline funding plus a small increase over previous levels,” he said. “And, it’s important to realize the federal money is spread across five years and across a dozen categories, with each category having defined uses. With restrictions and limitations across so many categories, it makes it essential to focus on the preservation needs of our existing transportation network rather than the mega-projects that need more funding than the infrastructure act provides. There’s simply not enough flexibility to allow using the funds on mega-projects.”

The act contains several competitive grant programs that might provide options for additional funding for major road/bridge projects, Harris said.

Separate from transportation money, the IIJA includes an expected more than $100 million for broadband in Alabama, as well as about $782 million for water projects. Combined with American Rescue Plan Act money, Alabama lawmakers have said it’s critical they make smart decisions with this influx of funding.