Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday announced 105 road and bridge improvement projects that will now be able to move forward as part of the first round of funding for ATRIP -- the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program.
ATRIP is the largest road and bridge improvement program in Alabama's history. The improvements are designed to enhance safety and quality of life for people in communities across the state. Further, the transportation projects will also serve as an economic development tool. Updated roads and bridges will help the state recruit additional jobs from companies that depend on a modern, solid infrastructure to transport goods.
"From large cities to rural areas, the people of this state deserve reliable, safe roads and bridges," Governor Bentley said. "School buses should not have to be detoured around substandard bridges. Communities need help improving roads that are currently over capacity or in need of various safety improvements."
"Also, companies depend on updated roads and bridges to help them safely conduct business and make deliveries," Governor Bentley added. "As we improve our infrastructure, we will improve the business climate in the state and make Alabama more attractive to businesses seeking to locate here and bring additional jobs."
Governor Bentley first unveiled the ATRIP program in February. Cities and counties across the state then submitted project proposals for the initial round of funding. ATRIP applications were analyzed by the Alabama Department of Transportation. Eligible projects were reviewed by an advisory committee, which, in conjunction with Governor Bentley, made the final project funding decisions.
There were applications representing 64 of Alabama's 67 counties, with at least one project from 61 counties approved in the first phase of funding. Every eligible applicant received at least one project. At least two additional rounds of funding are planned, one in fall 2012 and one in spring 2013. Projects not selected in the initial phase of funding are eligible for submission during the second and third phases.
Projects approved in ATRIP's first phase of funding range from rural to urban and include resurfacing, additional lanes, intersection upgrades, and 36 local bridge replacements. The 105 projects announced Thursday represent $138.5 million in funding during the initial round of ATRIP.
Funding for ATRIP comes through the use of GARVEE bonds. GARVEE is the term commonly used to describe the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles Bond Program.
Through the use of GARVEE bonds, Alabama is able to access future federal dollars now in order to pay for road and bridge projects that are needed immediately. With interest rates on municipal bonds at historic lows, the use of GARVEE bonds makes strong financial sense as the low cost of borrowing is generally lower than the rising cost of inflation in construction projects.
"By using GARVEE bonds, we are able to make much-needed improvements without raising taxes," Governor Bentley said. "In addition, this program will create construction jobs across the state as projects move forward, and by making areas more attractive to prospective employers, the ATRIP program will help with the long-term recruitment of even more jobs in the future."
The projects will require a 20 percent funding match provided by either the local government or through a local public-private partnership, with the remaining 80 percent provided by GARVEE bonds.
Projects are evaluated on several factors. Some of the criteria involved in the application and evaluation process include the ability to provide the required local match, the functional classification of the road, bridge sufficiency ratings, traffic counts, project delivery timeline, safety, connectivity with other highway infrastructure, innovation, partnerships, and economic, industrial or educational impacts.