When the Alabama Legislature convenes next week, one of the first issues it will tackle will be discussing raising the gas tax to help fund infrastructure projects across the state, Senator Jabo Waggoner told the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) this week.
Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) spoke at a press conference at the BBA releasing a report by TRIP, a national transportation research group, that found that deficient Birmingham roads cost the average driver $1,846 annually. The gas tax has not been raised since 1992, 27 years ago.
“The tax, if passed, wouldn’t build buildings or hire people,” Waggoner said. “We would spend it in concrete, asphalt and steel.”
Waggoner said the need for better infrastructure is imminent and that the American Society of Civil Engineers rated Alabama roads a D+ grade – nearly failing. Alabama’s bridges didn’t fare much better, earning a C-, and hundreds of bridges don’t meet code, Waggoner said.
“School buses are traveling over these failing bridges,” he said. “It’s the first priority we’ve got to look at.”
Comparatively, Alabamians pay 18 cents for the gas tax, as opposed to 34 cents paid by North Carolinians. Alabama has the fifth lowest gas tax in the country, Waggoner said. With the money from the increased gas tax, Alabama’s infrastructure will improve and bring about additional economic development opportunities. Waggoner said companies, when looking to relocate, look at location, workforce availability and infrastructure, and companies might choose to locate elsewhere because of Alabama’s failing infrastructure.
The BBA supports funding for infrastructure through investment revenues such as a state gas tax increase.
Key findings from the TRIP report include:
41 percent of major roads and highways in the Birmingham area are in poor or mediocre condition.
Driving on rough roads costs the average driver in the Birmingham area $549 annually in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional vehicle repair costs, increased fuel consumption and increased tire wear.
Traffic congestion costs the average Birmingham area driver $990 each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel.
The average Birmingham area driver loses 37 hours each year – nearly one full work week – stuck in congestion.