Tri-City Ledger -

By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

Gas prices to jump; head to Atmore

 

August 29, 2019



Over the years covering hundreds of county commission meetings and city council meetings the most complaints I've heard expressed was the condition of roads, bridges and ditches.

Those complaints have ranged from needing dirt roads paved, to filling potholes or resurfacing roads. The standard answer most of the complainers received was either 'we'll get to it when the can' or simply 'we don't have the money'.

It was about 15 or so years ago, the four-laning of Highway 31 from Flomaton to Atmore got on the Alabama Department of Transportation's five-year plan. I attended several meetings at various places as they discussed a variety of routes to take. All but one or two would send the new four-lane right through the Tri-City Ledger building. That project still hasn't happened and I won't hold my breath thinking it ever will in my lifetime.

This Sunday, the first phase of a 10-cent gasoline and diesel tax will go into effect across the state of Alabama which will raise the rate by 6-cents. It will go up another 2-cents next year and another 2-cents in 2021.

Estimates are that when the full 10-cent-per-gallon increase is in place it will bring in an additional $300 to $320 million a year to the state to address the road and bridge infrastructure problems plaguing this and every other state across this nation.

On top of the 10-cent increase approved by the Legislature this year, the bill allows the state to increase or decrease the tax every year, beginning in 2023, by a maximum of 1-cent per gallon based on the average of the National Highway Construction Cost Index. That's a fancy way of saying if the cost of building, fixing or resurfacing roads goes up the tax will go up a penny a year to help cover that cost.

You know as well as I know that the cost of buidling bridges, resurfacing roads or turning dirt roads into paved roads will increase every year. So, you might as well lock that 1-cent hike in place unless the Legislature decides to end the 'Index' increases.

I supported the fuel tax increase and I had people tell me I was crazy, along with some other choice words.

I supported it because over the years I watched the Escambia County (Ala.) County Commission struggle to maintain its road system. Most of the money that came to the county for roads was earmarked for what they call 'major collectors' so many of the old farm to market roads in the rural areas were left to crumble.

When people see one road getting repaved and the one next to it, that's in worse shape, continuing to crumble it not only makes them scratch their heads, it makes them mad.

But when the federal government sends money to the state to pave certain roads, the commission can't take that money to pave the roads that need paving the most. The commission either uses that money to pave the road they are told to pave or it doesn't get the money.

I'm optimistic that this new money will allow the counties and municipalities to address their worst needs instead of the needs they are told they have from the state and federal level.

Once the tax reaches its full 10-cents, Escambia County is expected to receive about $857,000 per year to address roads and bridges. Those figures could go up or down depending on how much gasoline and diesel is or is not purchased.

Granted, in terms of resurfacing and building roads, $857,000 sounds like a lot of money, but it really isn't. The municipalities will also share in the revenue with estimates ranging from Atmore receiving $81,816 to Riverview receiving $15,142 each year.

From what I've read this money will allow the county and the municipalities to address some issues that fall outside of the norm in terms of where the money can and cannot be spent. This money can also be used as matching funds to generate more road and bridge money.

The bottom line is fuel taxes are going up and they will continue to go up. You can save your 6-cents until Saturday. If you want to save money on gasoline, head toward Atmore. It has the cheapest prices around.

 
 

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