Millions needed for county roads

Published 12:05 am Friday, November 13, 2015

Estimated annual maintenance: $9.6M

Covington County has been able to replace two deficient bridge structures and improve more than 50 miles of roads, thanks to the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP).

The $6 million in improvements delivered over a three-year period is equivalent to more than 12 years of normal federal allocations received by the county, according to figures released recently by DRIVE Alabama, a coalition led by county engineers from Alabama’s 67 counties working to bring attention to the growing infrastructure needs across the state.

“We have completed 10 additional infrastructure projects in Covington County because of ATRIP. There is no way these projects could have been done without this program,” said Covington County Commission Chairman Bill Godwin. “But now that the program is coming to an end, we must deal with the remaining road situations without the extra infusion of money coming in from the state.”

One such example in Covington County is County Road 42 (Airport Road), said county engineer Darren Capps. Earlier this year, ATRIP invested $730K (a combination of 80 percent federal and 20 percent local funds) in roadway maintenance and safety improvements to Airport Road. The resurfacing project benefitted more than 50 homes, a church and eight businesses located on the road.

In addition to the residential impacts in the area, the project has improved access to approximately 1,527 acres of timber land and 234 acres of farm land.

DRIVE Alabama estimates that the state’s counties have far less money than they need to maintain the 43,284 miles of county paved roads and 8,650 county bridge structures throughout the state. County governments have approximately $369 million to spend on maintenance of those roads and bridges each year, and the state’s county engineers estimate that $502 million is needed.

“With our current financial resources almost exclusively going to maintenance activities, Covington County is situated like most Alabama counties,” Capps said. “The amount of money needed to improve and preserve the county’s road and bridge network is 141 percent higher than what is currently available to perform basic maintenance. We simply don’t have the resources to complete all the infrastructure work that needs to be done.”

ATRIP was introduced in 2012 as an infrastructure initiative aimed at investing more than $1 billion into Alabama’s local roads and bridges.

ARIP involves the use of future federal funds to pay the debt on the bond issue which funded the road and bridge projects.