Sen. Lowell Barron (D-Fyffe) withdrew his $1 billion roads bill from consideration by the state senate last week after a vote to end five days of filibuster failed by one vote. His bill, SB121, would have taken $100 million each year for 10 years from the Alabama Trust Fund to build roads and bridges. The bill has met with resistance from Republicans, who submitted a plan of their own, SB2. Withdrawing SB121 from consideration doesn’t kill the bill but severely cripples its chances of passing this session.
One of the environmental problems with the bill is its lack of funding for mass transit programs. Alabama is one of only a few states that provide no statewide funding for mass transit. However, a bill introduced by Rep. Pat Todd (D-Birmingham), HB116, 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.
HB70, sponsored by Rep. Cam Ward, is another transportation bill. The bill would create a five-member appointed commission that would select the director of the Alabama Department of Transportation and oversee policy and funding decisions by the agency. Ward’s intention is to create greater oversight over ALDOT’s activities. One possible outcome of the bill could be a greater voice for advocates of mass transit. ALDOT, despite its name, remains largely a roads and bridges agency and pays little attention to mass transit. With proper statewide public transit funding and a new commission in place, ALDOT could expand its focus to include all modes of transportation.
HB70 passed the House 87-6 on Jan. 19 and is awaiting action in the Senate Commerce Committee.
To learn more about Snyder’s organization, which is Alabama’s only full-time environmental lobbying group, visit www.conservationalabama.org.