LEE COUNTY, Ala. — Folks in Alabama could be paying a little bit more at the gas pump if the Association of County Commissions of Alabama’s proposal for a three-cent per gallon gasoline tax is passed.
This proposal comes on the heels of Governor Robert Bentley’s Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, which is wrapping up now. That program helped Lee County receive 23 projects. Of those 23 projects, 15 were bridge improvements and eight were road improvements. This program helped the county address 41 miles of roadway.
The ACCA’s proposal is called ATRIP-2.
The Lee County Commission has already passed a resolution supporting the initiative.
County Engineer, Justin Hardee said the county hopes to continue the momentum of that program, and find the next initiative to help continue addressing local roads that need help.
This initiative would be a $0.03 per gallon gas tax, which would fund a $1.2 billion bond issuance that would only be used for the repair of local roads and bridges. Each county would receive a minimum of $10 million, and 20% would be split up among all the municipalities based on their population. The tax would automatically end once the bonds are repaid.
Lee County is expected to receive $29 million, and after the money for municipalities is taken out, the county would have $23 million to use for local road improvement projects. If passed, and if the county commission prioritizes the funds for resurfacing, it would cover 125 miles of the county’s 675 miles of paved road infrastructure in the county, which equates to 18.5%.
Hardee said federal and state funds the county receives have strings attached and do not allow them to address some of the roads in need of help. Lee Road 852 is one of the roads needing help. It is riddled with cracks and patchjobs. It does not qualify for federal or state and federal funds, only county funds.
“We don’t have enough funds,” Hardee said. “I know people don’t like hearing that, but that’s the state of where we are with the local gas tax dollars and the state and local funds that Lee County is able to get. We don’t have the funds to go around to the 675 miles of paved roads like Lee Road 852 that we have to maintain.”
Currently, the county is on a 57-year resurfacing cycle. What that means is that if a road gets resurfaced, and the rest of the roads in the county are resurfaced, it would take 57 years before that original road is resurfaced again. Hardee said that the roads are not designed to last that long, and are not able to keep meeting the demands of today’s traffic.
“Citizens want to get the most for their dollars that they can,” County Commission Chairman Bill English said. “The question isn’t 23 million dollars. The question is three cents a gallon: how does that impact me? I encourage everyone to look at how this will affect you over the course of a year. What’s your contribution over the course of year, and are you willing to contribute that to improve the road system?”
If passed, the ACCA said that average Alabama driver would pay a little more than $1.50 a month.
Hardee said that to resurface a road costs $175,000 to $200,000 a mile, and that this initiative saves money in the long run on both drivers and the county.
“It will allow us to address a lot of roads like this and allow us to start implementing more pavement preservation techniques,” Hardee said. “This way, we can catch roads faster before they completely deteriorate like we see on this road behind us,” Hardee said.
If passed by the legislature, projects could begin around this time next year.