Remove politics from funding

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Shelby County’s economy is not just moving forward; it is blasting ahead of the rest of the state like a rocket ship.

There seems to be no limit to our economic potential for new jobs, small business start-ups and a healthy retail base.

However, one critical problem that curtails Shelby County’s potential is the state’s continued neglect of road improvements in our county.

The incredible residential growth during the last 10 years in Alabaster, Calera, Helena and Pelham has pushed our road capacity to handle traffic to the breaking point.

Unfortunately in Alabama, politics and not priority dictates where roads are built.

It has always been said &uot;whatever party controls the governor’s office, controls where road money is spent.&uot;

This saying couldn’t be more true in Shelby County. For every dollar we send to Montgomery in gasoline taxes, we get back less than 25 cents in road improvements.

This &uot;practice&uot; of building roads and upgrading and resurfacing existing roadways in exchange for political favors is wrong and must end regardless of what party controls the governor’s office.

As taxpayers, we should not tolerate placing the safety of those who travel on congested roadways in the hands of inside-Montgomery political deals.

Last year, the state of Alabama spent nearly $1.5 billion on transportation.

Unfortunately, less that $600 million was let to contract for infrastructure improvements. The rest of the money was spent primarily on consulting contracts.

Every year, Congress appropriates more and more money to the state of Alabama for transportation, but Shelby County continues to be neglected when it comes to widening our roads.

The time has come to take politics out of Alabama’s infrastructure system by establishing an independent transportation commission to determine where roads and bridges are built and improved.

Members of the commission would be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The commission members should serve staggered six-year terms and create a strict formula for assessing where road and bridge projects are most needed as opposed to who has political power.

Under this proposal, commission members will be required to have the professional knowledge and engineering background necessary to develop a comprehensive state transportation plan.

Further, the director of the Department of Transportation would be appointed by the commission, thereby preventing political control of the governor’s office from dictating the future of transportation needs in our state.

Shelby County’s continued economic vitality depends on an adequate road system for its residents.

For too long, the state’s transportation planning has served political whims with no uniform policy instead of serving the actual needs of local communities.

An independent commission for transportation is the first step in keeping politics from stopping the growth of a community.

Shelby County has desperate road improvement needs, and addressing those needs should be our top priority