Governor Robert Bentley on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 192, which will help more counties participate in the largest road and bridge improvement program in Alabama's history.
Senate Bill 192 establishes the Rural Assistance Match Program (RAMP). RAMP will be available to counties that are unable to meet the 20 percent local funding match required to participate in ATRIP, the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program. ATRIP was established by Governor Bentley in 2012 to help local areas access funding needed for essential road and bridge improvements.
"ATRIP is improving public safety by replacing old bridges and repairing and widening outdated roads," Governor Robert Bentley said. "Better roads and bridges help a community attract new jobs. When companies look for places to build and expand, they look for good infrastructure. So while ATRIP is improving public safety, it's also helping improve our economy."
"Some counties have not been able to participate because of limited funding," Governor Bentley added. "Thanks to this legislation, those counties now have the resources available to participate in ATRIP and receive much-needed improvements."
Under RAMP, counties and cities that are unable to meet the 20 percent local funding match required to leverage federal ATRIP funds are now eligible to receive up to $1 million in state funds to match an additional $4 million in federal funds. RAMP allows the Alabama Department of Transportation to sell bonds to provide the local match to participating counties and cities.
Since Governor Bentley formally unveiled his ATRIP initiative, 439 road and bridge projects have been announced. To date, 61 of Alabama's 67 counties have received ATRIP funding for various road and bridge projects. With the RAMP program, all counties are now eligible to receive ATRIP funding.
The six counties that have not received ATRIP projects so far are Fayette, Hale, Lawrence, Marengo, Wilcox and Winston. Other counties that have received limited ATRIP funding and are also eligible for RAMP assistance are Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Crenshaw, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Lowndes, Marion, Perry, Pickens and Randolph. In all, 22 counties are eligible to participate in RAMP based on current local funding needs.
"As a member of the ATRIP Advisory Board, I am pleased to see more rural counties have the opportunity to be eligible to receive financial assistance to improve roads and bridges in their areas," Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey said. "These projects play a vital role in the long-term economic impact of local communities and the state."
The first priority for funding in each RAMP county is the replacement of county bridges posted for school bus traffic and eligible for federal funds. If all eligible bridge replacement needs are fulfilled, local governments would also be able to request funding for other road improvement projects deemed eligible to receive ATRIP funding. All bridge and road projects must be eligible for federal assistance to be considered for ATRIP or RAMP funding.
ATRIP is expected to distribute up to $1 billion in federal funds during a three-year period for eligible projects submitted by participating counties and cities throughout Alabama. The ATRIP funds will be provided up front by GARVEE bonds and repaid by future federal highway funding appropriations. The use of GARVEE bonds makes strong financial sense as the low cost of borrowing is generally lower than the rising cost of inflation on construction projects. GARVEE bonds also allow the state to make needed improvements without raising taxes.
State Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) and State Representative Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) sponsored the RAMP legislation.
"This RAMP legislation is a critical piece in the repair and replacement of many of the dangerous bridges in rural Alabama," Senator Bussman said. "By doing this work now, the State of Alabama and the 22 participating counties will be able to save a great deal of money while doing 10-15 years' worth of bridge and road work in a short period of time. It will significantly improve school bus route safety as well as improve the farm-to-market access corridors."
"In addition to providing taxpayers with the quality roads and bridges they expect and deserve, this initiative will provide Alabama with the transportation infrastructure we need in order to compete with other states in industrial recruitment and job creation," Representative McCutcheon said. "Making these road and bridge improvements available to each county and area of the state will also ensure that Alabama's important transportation decisions will be based on priorities and not politics."