Transportation change bill passes House

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A bill which could mean a great deal to Shelby County has passed the Alabama House by a vote of 86-13.

The bill which would revamp the state Department of Transportation was introduced in the House by Shelby County Rep. Cam Ward of Alabaster.

&uot;This is only the second time this bill has made it out of the House and it’s been around for 12 years,&uot; he said.

Ward said the bipartisan support for the bill is often unprecedented in the Alabama Legislature.

&uot;Other legislators are finally coming to the conclusion that their areas have been shortchanged for too long as well,&uot; Ward said.

Ward’s bill establishes a nine-member commission to oversee the Department of Transportation. In overseeing the state’s road department, the commission would hire a director to run the department as well as help to prioritize road needs statewide.

Currently, the director is appointed by the governor.

Ward said this has proven to be inefficient as road priorities change with every new governor.

In addition, he said, it has not been unusual for administrations to use the Department of Transportation to garner votes in the Legislature for one thing or another.

The transportation bill which passed the House last week would call for commission members to be appointed by the governor to staggered terms, Ward said. They would only serve one term, and once they serve, can never be re-appointed.

Commission members would not be employed in the road-building business or as lobbyists, according to the bill.

&uot;Decisions on road improvements should be made based on need,&uot; Ward said in a recent interview.

&uot;Road construction should not be based on politics. It should be based on need. And on that basis, Shelby County is clearly where it’s needed.&uot;

Ward said the change in the way the DOT operates would make it more likely Shelby County would see those needs met.

Ward’s transportation bill is now in the state Senate where it has been assigned to the Senate’s Banking Committee.

He said he expects a committee hearing on the bill next week