Senate debates funds for roads

Published 10:55 pm Friday, January 22, 2010

The Alabama Senate spent two days this week debating a proposed bill that would result in funds being allocated toward road and bridge construction.

The $1 billion dollar proposal would span ten years and take $100 million per year from the Alabama Trust Fund and direct it to road and bridge projects throughout the state, reported the Associated Press.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, stands behind the legislation. “I support the bill,” he said.

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Mitchell said the passing of the bill could mean that at least some relief would be provided to an under-funded Pike County Road Department.

“The Pike County Commission has been stating to me that they don’t have enough money and this will give them some money,” Mitchell said. “They have some projects in our area that are very important.”

The AP reported that Republican opponents of the bill are concerned about tapping into the trust fund, saying that it is the state’s primary savings account and should be protected.

“They’ve proposed a five percent gasoline tax,” Mitchell said. “We don’t need a tax against the consumer in this economy.”

Mitchell said 25 percent of the funds will be distributed directly to counties, 75 percent would go to the Alabama Department of Transportation and each of the state’s seven congressional districts will receive equal amounts.

County Engineer Russell Oliver said that after each county receives its share, it will be required to distribute 10 percent to the municipalities within it.

Oliver said the amount the Pike County Road Department would end up with is around $230,000 per year.

“The average cost in the 7th Division to resurface one mile of paved road is $174,000,” Oliver said. “We may also be able to replace one very small bridge.”

But Oliver said the funds would be welcome if the bill is passed. “It’s just one small piece of the puzzle,” he said. “We definitely need the money, and it will be helpful.”

The Senate will reconvene on Tuesday to continue the debate.