By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Thursday, a bill authorizing the sale of bonds by the Alabama Highway Authority to raise money for counties and cities to repair bridges and roads passed on the Senate Floor.
Senate Bill 339, sponsored by Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman), states:
“The Alabama Highway Authority…may sell and issue its bonds in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding six hundred fifty million dollars($650,000,000); provided, that the limitation shall not apply to refunding bonds.”
Due to weight restrictions on some county and city bridges, school buses and other heavy vehicles are forced to be rerouted. In some counties, school buses are taking alternative routes that add as much as an hour to the route. Buses detour an estimated 200 bridges per day.
Governor Robert Bentley has a proposed a similar plan to repair bridges and roads using federal the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles Bond Program (GARVEE) to fund the project.
Senators view SB339 as a backup or companion bill to the governors’. “I will continue to work with the Governor. If we have to mingle the two together to get it fixed, my concern is that we get it fixed so that we don’t have school kids crossing those bridges that are dangerous or having school kids on a bus an hour more than they should just because they are avoiding a bridge,” said Bussman.
Each Alabama county may receive no more than 5 percent of the bond proceeds. In counties with bridges needing repair, only up to 25 percent of those funds may be used for roads the remaining 75 percent must be used for bridges. If all of the bridges in a county are considered in good condition, the total amount received may be used for roads.
All projects must be completed within one year of the initial funding and within two years after all bonds have been issued.
The bill states that for repayment of the bonds the “$.13 per gallon excise tax on motor fuel levied in Chapter 17 of Title 40 of the Code” will be used. This, according to Bussman, should equate to $40 million per year.
Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) added an amendment requiring 5 percent matching funds for cities and counties.
“It is a good bill, we have a tremendous problem with our bridge infrastructure in the state of Alabama especially in our rural areas and I think this bill will fix that problem,” said Bussman.
The bill now goes to the House for assignment to committee.