Road bill on life support – where do we go from here?

Sen. Lowell Barron withdrew his $1 billion for roads bill after a vote to end five days of filibuster failed by one vote. While withdrawing SB121 from consideration doesn’t kill the bill, it severely cripples the bill’s chance of passing this session.

One of the environmental knocks against the bill is the lack of funding for mass transit programs. Alabama is one of only a few states that provides no statewide funding for mass transit. However, a bill introduced by Rep. Pat Todd is looking to change that.

If adopted by a vote of the people, HB116 would allow fees and taxes levied on cars and fuel to be used toward public transit. Such a move could be the first step in drawing down hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. The reauthorization of the federal surface transportation funding bill is underway, and it is expected to put greater emphasis on public transit and local planning.

HB116 has been assigned to the House Government Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. John Knight.

Another transportation-related bill is HB70, sponsored by Rep. Cam Ward. The Alabama Department of Transportation, despite its name, remains largely a roads and bridges agency with little attention to mass transit. HB70 would create a five-member appointed commission that would select the ALDOT director and oversee policy and funding decisions by the agency. With proper statewide public transit funding and a new commission in place, ALDOT could expand its focus to include all modes of transit.

HB70 passed the House 87-6 on Jan. 19 and is awaiting action in the Senate commerce committee.

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