Politics and transportation: Solutions to road woes discussed at American Village

State legislators, businessmen, community members and others gathered at the American Village yesterday to hash out ideas for improving the county and state&8217;s transportation systems.

The Transportation Summit consisted of discussions about solutions for Shelby County&8217;s roadways as well as other transportation needs in the state.

Rep. Cam Ward (R- Alabaster) said the Alabama Commission on Infrastructure

recognizes that any solutions for travel in the state must have a broad approach.

&8220;There&8217;s a kind of knee-jerk reaction to transportation problems that says &8216;Well, what we need to do is widen the roads.&8217; That might help, especially in Shelby County, but in the long-term we are going to have to do more,&8221; he said.

The commission is taking an approach that looks at the entirety of transportation in every area of the state. Ward said this includes investigating how better use of the rail and port systems could decrease transport traffic of manufactured goods on county roads and interstates.

The commission is also suggesting a reform of the Alabama Department of Transportation. One particular change the transportation commission is suggesting would be to create a governing body that would oversee the department and make appointments to open positions. Ward said a similar method was put in place to operate the state docks, and he believes that has improved the quality of the state&8217;s ports.

Another suggestion involves how to pay for road, rail and port improvements. Ward said there is little if any support for a gas tax, although that was brought up several times in the commission&8217;s report.

He said looking at revenue from oil and natural gas along the coast, as a means of improving infrastructure, would be beneficial. A third solution would be to consider toll roads created for every new thoroughfare built in the state or to at least create a toll road for transport trucks only, along I-65.

&8220;If we are concerned at all about our economy and the betterment of the state as a whole, we must look at the whole picture,&8221; Ward said.

Ward said the transportation issues Shelby County and Alabama are having would eventually cause more problems than just long commutes to work, if not addressed. He said they would inevitably affect the county&8217;s and state&8217;s economy and quality of life