By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – If you own and operate an automobile in Alabama, poor infrastructure could be costing you around $1,500 a year in added wear and maintenance, a transportation research group says.
TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit, said in a report released Monday that Alabama drivers collectively lose $5.3 billion annually due to roads and bridges that are “deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features.”
“Adequate investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels is needed to relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Alabama,” the group said in a press release.
Gov. Kay Ivey is expected Wednesday to announce a gas tax increase proposal to fund road and bridge improvements statewide. The tax increase bill is expected to be the dominant issue in the legislative session that starts next week.
Last week, the Alabama Republican Party at its winter meeting passed a resolution asking the GOP-majority lawmakers not to pass a tax increase.
Earlier this month, the Alabama Forestry Association released a poll in which about 62 percent of those questioned said they’d support raising the gas tax if taxes if the tax on groceries was decreased by the same amount. Only 45 percent supported an outright gas tax increase to improve infrastructure.
The TRIP report said that almost 33 percent of the state’s major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 7 percent of locally and state-maintained bridges (20 feet or longer) are structurally deficient. The report also finds that the state’s major urban roads are becoming more congested, affecting both commuters and commerce alike.
The report studied three different categories — vehicle operating costs, safety and congestion. — in seven metropolitan areas of the state.
“Driving on deficient roads comes with $5.3 billion price tag for Alabama motorists,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Adequate funding for the state’s transportation system would allow for smoother roads, more efficient mobility, enhanced safety, and economic growth opportunities while saving Alabama’s drivers time and money.”
According to the report, the buying power of Alabama’s 18 cents-per-gallon fuel tax, which was last raised 27 years ago, has been cut in more than half by inflation and increased fuel economy.
Much of Alabama’s current transportation budget is devoted to preserving the existing system, leaving only $150 million available annually for new projects.