Governor suggests tolls; Northern Beltline not on list

There’s been rumblings for some months that the Bob Riley administration is more willing than any prior governor to experiment with toll roads. (That’s not including former Governor Fob James’ son Tim James’ – a candidate for the office once himself – foray into toll bridges in creating the Foley Beach Express in the 1990s.)

However, in an Associated Press story released today, the Northern Beltline, the 50+ mile northern loop around Birmingham in Jefferson County, was not on the list of roadways being studied for a potential public-private partnership.

Alabama governor eyeing tolls for some new roads – Associated Press 9/23/07

The interstate, now expected to cost $2.45 BILLION – about $2 billion of federal dollars, and $500 million of local and state dollars – is being fast-tracked by local planning authorities and ALDOT to have construction started over the next four years. However, the updated environmental assessment has not been completed; major questions remain about funding infrastructure needed to support the road; and no one can empirically validate that this publicly funded project will reap positive economic gains for the region.

As has been said time and time again about the plans for a dome stadium in Birmingham, if it is such a good economic development investment, why not let the private sector pay for it? Will Governor Riley and ALDOT add the Northern Beltline to their toll road study list?

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