Governor Robert Bentley on Monday announced more than 250 road and bridge improvement projects that will now be able to move forward in rural counties thanks to the Rural Assistance Match Program (RAMP).
RAMP allows additional counties to take part in Governor Bentley's statewide road improvement initiative, called the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP). Previously, 61 of 67 counties had received ATRIP funding. With the new projects announced on Monday, all 67 Alabama counties have now received ATRIP projects since the program was established by Governor Bentley in 2012.
"Already, ATRIP is making a positive difference in communities across the state. Now, thanks to RAMP funding, every single county in Alabama will have better roads," Governor Bentley said. "I don't want school buses to have to go around bad bridges. I don't want communities to be limited by outdated roads. Improving our roads and bridges will improve public safety across the state and lead to more job creation. As we improve roads and bridges in rural areas, we'll make those communities more attractive to companies that are looking for places to build and expand. These companies need good infrastructure to transport their products; that's exactly what ATRIP is giving them."
ATRIP was established by Governor Bentley to help local areas access funding needed for essential road and bridge improvements. The RAMP initiative is available to counties that are unable to meet the 20 percent local funding match required to participate in ATRIP. To compliment ATRIP, RAMP was established by Senate Bill 192, which Governor Bentley signed into law in April.
"Now, every county in Alabama has the opportunity to participate in ATRIP, thanks to a collaborative effort by the ATRIP Advisory Committee, Governor Bentley, and ALDOT," said Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, a member of the ATRIP Advisory Board. "Some of Alabama's counties, particularly in rural areas, needed more leverage to jump-start infrastructure improvements in their communities. Everyone worked together to develop and implement a solution. RAMP is a valuable complement to the ATRIP program. It means more to these communities than road repaving and bridge repairs; it improves safety and creates an economic impact that will benefit rural counties and cities for years to come."
Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) and Representative Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) sponsored the legislation that established RAMP.
"With the RAMP legislation, we're able to provide 10 to 15 years' worth of road and bridge projects for these rural communities," Senator Bussman said. "The main criteria in RAMP are the repairs or replacements of bridges that accommodate school traffic. This shows how RAMP and ATRIP are helping improve public safety. The RAMP legislation allows us to share these improvements with more communities."
"The RAMP bill gives every county in the state the opportunity to participate in ATRIP," Representative McCutcheon said. "This statewide initiative will improve infrastructure for highway safety and economic development for future and existing jobs. ATRIP has been one of the most aggressive transportation improvement programs in the state's history."
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 are then able to request funding for other road improvement projects deemed eligible to receive ATRIP funding.
Under RAMP, counties and cities are 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. In addition to the $5 million total for RAMP, some counties are eligible for up to a total of $2 million in additional funding where the county must provide the required match instead of ALDOT.
Counties taking part in RAMP previously had no projects, or only limited projects, as part of ATRIP due to limited local funds. In all, 22 counties are eligible to participate in RAMP based on current local funding needs. All 22 of those counties have projects in the list announced by Governor Bentley on Monday. With Monday's announcement of 254 RAMP projects, the total number of road and bridge improvements announced under ATRIP so far is 693.
Funding for ATRIP projects comes from the use of GARVEE bonds. GARVEE bonds allow the state to access future federal dollars for transportation projects that are needed immediately. 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. In December, the State of Alabama closed on the initial round of GARVEE bonds, selling at an all-time low, fixed interest rate of 2.26% over the 14-year life of the bonds.