County may get fewer road funds

Published 11:23 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The number of road projects throughout the state, including those in Covington County, may soon decline after a decline in federal gas tax revenue has transportation officials predicting a cut in federal highway funding.

When combined with an 11 percent decrease off the top of those federal funds for “administrative fees,” county engineer Darren Capps predicts funding for the number of highway projects throughout the state will be greatly diminished.

“Covington County gets $500,000 each year from the federal government for highway projects,” Capps said. “We just got a memo last week from the state that said they’re going to keep 11 percent of that as an ‘administrative fee’ since they’re the ones that distribute the money to everyone.”

Capps said the county is required to put up a 20 percent match for the funds.

“That half million has been consistent for the last 14 years or so,” he said. “And with the way the cost of materials is — especially asphalt — that’s only enough to do one project.

“Sometimes we have to combine two years’s worth of money just so we can complete a project,” he said.

Currently, the county has five highway construction projects under way, Capps said.

“We just (awarded a bid for) a $630,000 project for County Road 70,” he said. “Then there is a section of Antioch Road, which is about $200,000. We’ve already sent out bids for the three projects for 2009.”

Those projects include repair to two roads in District 3 and one in District 2 — in District 3, County Road 89, where it meets County Road 18 to County Road 10 and County Road 18 to U.S. Hwy. 331, and in District 2, County Road 98 from U.S. Hwy. 84 to County Road 49. It is a total of 5.7 miles of paving.

Commission Chairman Greg White has stated repeatedly that collections for gas tax revenue have flat lined for the last seven years.

Alabama Transportation Director Joe McInnes says his department will likely reduce project lettings beginning in November, unless Congress approves $8 billion in additional funding for the states.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters announced Friday that the decline in gas tax revenue will cause states to receive less federal highway funding than originally anticipated, unless Congress acts. Congress is considering legislation that would provide $8 billion to the National Highway Trust Fund.

McInnes said Tuesday a cutback in federal funds had been expected, but not this soon.