By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
Infrastructure funding is one of the top issues facing Alabama at the moment. Finding a way to pay for building and repairing the state’s aging roads and bridges is expected to be a top issue in the Alabama Legislature’s 2019 Regular Session no matter who gets elected in November.
One high profile project demonstrates both the problems that come with a lack of resources and the great promise the state could see should a realistic funding solution be found.
Crews are widening Interstate 65 from four to six lanes for a three-mile stretch from State Route 3 in Alabaster north to Pelham where the highway begins its expanse into metropolitan Birmingham’s urban core. The project began in January, earning both groans for the inevitable construction delays and sighs of relief for the eventual positive effect it will have on commuters and travelers alike.
The $70 million project is a major undertaking that has been badly needed for years. It’s one of dozens of major infrastructure needs throughout Alabama. But, due to lack of funding resources, the state can generally only afford to build one of these major projects each year.
Dunn Construction and Wiregrass Construction Company, which won the bids for the project, invited members of the Alabama Legislature to tour their local asphalt-making plant and the highway project itself. Project Manager Michael Estell said the work is on schedule and currently about 43 percent finished.
Jim Page, President of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure (AAI), hosted the group along with representatives from the Alabama Road Builders Association and the National Asphalt Pavement Association. Together, they explained construction techniques and worked to convince lawmakers why more infrastructure funding is critical to Alabama’s economic future.
The Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure has recently started a social media campaign documenting some of the state’s road and bridge deficiencies and urging lawmakers to solve the problem.
Infrastructure Impact on Economy and Well Being
Page first highlighted the connection between infrastructure development and the growth of Alabama’s economy. He pointed out that the way in which Alabama deals with its infrastructure problems is a key factor in whether or not industries decide to locate or grow their businesses here.