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Let's have a real debate about rebuilding Alabama's infrastructure
How long before Alabama taxpayers are on the hook for that too ... Beach Express - that allow for an efficient traffic flow to the beach houses and vacation homes of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Mr. Cooper wants his third bridge, and he wants it now.
By Guest Voices
Apryl Marie FogelCarla Jean Whitley | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Apryl Marie Fogel, founder of Conservatives for Better Leadership, to learn more visit alabamaleadership.org
The woeful state of Alabama's roads and bridges is impossible to ignoreWe've all heard the statistics: Over 1,200 of our bridges are structurally deficient, and thousands of miles of roads are congested and unsafeBut most importantly, it's an issue that affects families across the stateThere are 600 bridges in our state that school buses can't cross for safety reasonsThis is deeply embarrassing, and we're counting on our leaders in Montgomery to fix it.
But simply throwing money at the problem is the wrong approachSome interest groups in the state capitol are seizing on President Trump's call for nationwide infrastructure investment to call for a massive spending bill that would rely on gas tax increases to fix our roads and bridgesMissing from their agenda are important words like prioritization and accountability - words that have been missing in Montgomery for too long.
The dirty secret is that the biggest problem at Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is not lack of funding, but is spending our tax dollars in the wrong places, with no concept of prioritization or efficiencyCosts continue to spiral as ALDOT, led by Robert Bentley appointee John Cooper, quotes taxpayers one cost for a project only to see it balloon out of controlYes, that's the same John Cooper who with Bentley threated to cut off road projects for members of the legislature who didn't vote for tax increasesTalk about prioritization of projects, in Cooper world it's "Coopers way or no highway."
The Northern Beltline project north of Birmingham was supposed to cost $4.7 billion, funded by the federal governmentNow it's slated at $5.45 billion and construction has stopped as federal funding dried upThe question is what's next for the project? How long before Alabama taxpayers are on the hook for that too?
We're also set to fund a third bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway to the Gulf Coast, and ALDOT has only publicized the cost of a portion of the project, at $30 millionWho knows how large that number will grow, and what the final phases will cost taxpayersNever mind the fact that we have two spans - State Route 59, and the privately owned Beach Express - that allow for an efficient traffic flow to the beach houses and vacation homes of Gulf Shores and Orange BeachMrCooper wants his third bridge, and he wants it now.
Meanwhile, our kids are taking the back roads to school because our leaders can't focus on fixing hundreds of deficient bridgeThey're too busy proposing new projects and breaking promises about who will fund themThey can't control costs, but are content to stick taxpayers with the bill.
The interest groups supporting new taxes and big spending bills to build new roads and bridges must consider Montgomery's track record before rubber stamping a huge package that will almost certainly balloon in size and expect taxpayers to continue to foot the bill.
When President Trump called for a significant investment in rebuilding American infrastructure, he didn't ignore the detailsHe demanded significant private sector involvement, to leverage expertise and dollars and ensure long term sustainabilityHe understands that throwing tax dollars at the problem only leads to spiraling costs and a total lack of accountabilityMontgomery needs to understand the same.
GovKay Ivey is correct to push for infrastructure improvementsTo this point, she has been a good steward of our tax dollars, and shepherded private sector-led economic growth and job creationBut she needs to consider the record of her deputies in state government, especially those appointed by our disgraced former GovBentley, no stranger to spending state money with no regard for taxpayers.
ALDOT Director John Cooper isn't focused on our children's right to safe passage to schoolHe isn't concerned with our crumbling existing infrastructureHe wants to build vanity projects to the coast instead of working with the private sector to relieve congestionHe wants to promise slick new highways paid for by the federal government, only to change his tune when the bill comes due.
If we want safe, efficient roads and bridges in Alabama, we need accountable leadership, and we need a planUntil ALDOT gets its act together we have neither, and calls for billions of dollars of new spending will fall on deaf ears.
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