Crowd sparse at congestion meetings: Traffic plan supporters optimistic despite low turnout

Proponents of a plan allowing Shelby County residents to vote on funding for traffic improvements remain optimistic, despite low turnout at public meetings held Monday night.

The town hall meetings, held to discuss proposed legislation targeting traffic congestion and road safety, attracted only a handful of residents. A stronger contingent of elected officials and media attended the meetings held at Chelsea City Hall, Jefferson State Community College and the University of Montevallo.

The meetings were organized by The Partnership, a public-private consortium of the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, in response to a request by State Sen. Hank Erwin (R-Montevallo).

Before signing off on a bill to create a Shelby County Road Congestion, Safety and Traffic Improvement Trust Fund, Erwin said he wanted evidence that residents indeed supported a referendum to vote yes or no on the issue.

Chamber president Jennifer Trammell said Monday night she felt The Partnership had met each of Erwin&8217;s three specific requests: garner 2,000 to 4,000 signatures on a petition, hold public town hall meetings and obtain a unanimous resolution of support from the Shelby County Commission.

The County Commission passed a resolution supporting a substitute bill at its Monday meeting.

Changes to the bill, first introduced by Sen. J.T. &8220;Jabo&8221; Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) include limitations on funding options to a sales tax no greater than 1 percent and a $1000-per-dwelling &8220;transportation improvement fee&8221; to be levied on every new house or apartment in Shelby County.

&8220;The road fund has always been a glaring math problem,&8221; said County Commissioner Ted Crockett, who attended the Chelsea meeting Monday night.

County Engineer Randy Cole reinforced the need by pointing to a $394 million shortfall for Shelby County road projects over the next 10 to 20 years.

Trammell said The Partnership had already collected nearly 2,000 petition signatures before Monday and is collecting more daily in the hopes of taking them to Montgomery by the end of the week