Legislature to consider bond issue for Alabama bridges

$275 million bond issue would fund replacement of county bridges

News The Montgomery Advertiser November 29, 2007
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County commissioners from across Alabama are urging Legislature to pass a $275 million bond issue that would fund replacement of structurally deficient county bridges in the state.

The bond issue would not be enough to replace or upgrade all of the bridges with low sufficiency ratings. 1,576 state bridges have received failing grades under federal standards. Sonny Brasfield, assistant executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, estimated it would cost $415 million to replace or upgrade all the bridges.

“The engineers have deemed these bridges structurally deficient and functionally obsolete,” Brasfield said Nov. 26.

A similar bond issue in 2000 replaced or upgraded about half the existing eligible county bridges.

Being categorized as functionally obsolete or structurally deficient does not mean a bridge is unusable or dangerous if it is used correctly, based on posted weight and width restrictions.

The condition of bridges received national attention in August after the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis.

Brasfield said the bond issue would be introduced in the Legislature’s regular session, which starts in February. The proposal will be part of a package of four bills that would generate revenue for improvements to keep county road and bridge infrastructure.

County engineers polled Nov. 27 said they do not know which bridges would qualify for replacement because they have not seen the details of the proposed legislation. But they support the concept of the bond issue, if it does not decrease revenue and resources in other areas, because of the success of the 2000 bond issue.

“It made a big dent in our problems here, and we are hoping we can have this again and it will make a bigger dent,” said Pickens County Engineer Daniel Hallmon. Pickens County has nine bridges potentially eligible for replacement, he said.

Gov. Bob Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson said Riley is studying the proposal.

But State Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, said the issue will be how to pay the annual note on a $275 million bond issue. “I don’t know if we’ve got that money,” he said.

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