Road engineers lobby candidates

Published 1:23 am Sunday, November 2, 2008

As Tuesday’s election draws near, the road departments in the 2nd Congressional District are working on a little campaign of their own.

With transportation funding falling short in Alabama, members of Crenshaw County’s Road Department have spearheaded an effort to rally for critical repair needs, and Pike County has jumped on board.

“(They are) trying to get all the counties in the 2nd Congressional District to provide a report showing what their immediate road and bridge repair needs are and then provide a consolidated report to Jay Love and Bobby Bright,” said Pike County Engineer Russell Oliver. “Transportation funding right now is really a big deal and something that’s going to have to be addressed at some point on all levels.”

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Oliver said Pike County needs $15.8 million to make critical repairs. And, that’s just local repairs.

The 2nd District as a whole will need $82.5 million just to repair faulty bridge structures, according to Benjie Sanders, Crenshaw County engineer.

Sanders said 212 bridges across the state are not strong enough for school busses to travel across them, and 45 of those bridges are in Pike County.

“We’ve gotten to a point now where the cost of doing road and bridge work has just skyrocketed, and it far outweighs the revenues available,” Oliver said.

With a gas tax last updated in 1992, Oliver said the revenues generated from the tax just don’t carry the departments. “A dollar will not buy what it did in 1993,” Oliver said.

Sanders said organizers were unable to contact data from all the 16 counties in the district, but he used information from the state association to compile a report.

Oliver said the report is a step in the right direction for meeting transportation deficiencies.

“I think it’s a very worthwhile effort,” Oliver said. “Pretty soon, if something’s not done, we’re going to be talking along the lines of tearing some of these paved roads up and making them dirt roads, and that’s going to be going in the wrong direction.”

Both congressional candidates said these transportation needs in the 2nd Congressional District are at the top of what they will address if elected to congress.

“We have some really critical infrastructure needs in Crenshaw County and across Alabama’s 2nd District, and meeting those needs will be a top priority for me in Congress,” said Democrat candidate and Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright. “This issue is not only important for public safety but also for economic development because having good roads is a critical factor in attracting and expanding businesses.”

Republican candidate Rep. Jay Love said he wants to look for creative ways in office to solve these infrastructure needs.

“For a long time Alabama has been doing more with less when it comes to roads and bridges, and the fact is, we need more resources to get it all taken care of,” Love said. “I am against raising the federal gasoline tax even a penny. I agree with Gov. Riley that we need to find creative ways that don’t involve raising taxes to get projects completed even more quickly, such as public-private partnerships.”