What could President Trump’s infrastructure plan mean for Alabama?


    President Trump calls a plan to fix America’s infrastructure "big and bold."

    The president’s proposal would cost $1.5 trillion and be funded with only $200 billion of federal spending.

    The rest of the money is expected to come from state and local governments.

    The plan is to fix roads and bridges and bring broadband internet access to rural areas.

    Alabama's infrastructure has plenty of room for improvement. For example, a new report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association finds 1,200 Alabama bridges to be structurally deficient. A structurally deficient bridge means one of the key elements of that structure is in poor or worsening condition.

    Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure Executive Director Drew Harrell says the White House's proposed infrastructure plan could be significant for this state.

    “Our roads are crumbling all across the state,” said Harrell. “County governments struggle just to maintain systems they currently have.”

    The money could also help with capacity issues and congestion.

    For example, the bridge on US 31 in Shelby County off the tank farm exit is considered "functionally obsolete" because it needs to be widened.

    Shelby county's traffic engineer says this is one type of project that could benefit from the federal funds.

    President Trump's plan would require state and local governments to write big checks to pull down some matching federal funds.

    The need for that check could open the door for an increase of Alabama’s gas tax.

    “State and local governments will have to submit applications and in the application one of the highest weighed factors is evidence that state and local governments are looking to create new, nonfederal revenue at their respective levels in order to secure those federal funds,” said Harrell.

    Harrell says the current proposal would require an 80 percent financial commitment from local governments to pull down a 20 percent federal match. The high financial commitment could have local governments questioning if the investment is worth it.

    Another part of the president’s plan also includes $50 billion for projects in rural areas.

    “That means is a portion of that money that will be provided to governors, they’ll be allowed to spend at their discretion and that also includes more than roads and bridges,” explained Harrell. “It includes waste water facilities, drinking water facilities among other areas of infrastructure.”

    The plan also helps to streamline the permitting process, in an attempt to move projects along quicker.

    “That’s huge cost savings on projects because the longer a project sits there and goes through the process, the more expensive it will become,” added Harrell.

    Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens tells ABC 33/40 the county set aside money in its recent bond refinancing deal for roads. $25 million could be used annually to help pull down federal dollars for road projects.

    “The infrastructure plan from President Trump represents a significant expenditure that the county commission will be able to enhance and utilize to improve infrastructure within Jefferson county,” said Stephens.

    “It means so much for economic development and perhaps completion of the long awaited northern beltline, which would open the northern part of Jefferson county to development just as 459 has done to the south,” added Stephens. “We are excited about the future of Jefferson County.”

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