|Large Part of Jefferson County Budget Set Aside for Road Improvements in 2020|
LARGE PART OF JEFFERSON COUNTY BUDGET SET ASIDE FOR ROAD IMPROVEMENTS IN 2020
• Additional plan to help cities with gas tax revenues
(Birmingham, AL) -- When the Jefferson County Commission passed its 2020 fiscal budget it set aside more than $58 million for Roads and Transportation, a $9 million increase over fiscal year 2019 funding. That increase in funding is important to support the Department continuing to implement its five-year plan to catch up on much needed road improvements. Goals include over 150 miles of paving, replacement or rehabilitation of four bridges, reconstruction of 20 major drainage culverts and a variety of other infrastructure improvement projects.
This maintenance is overdue as a result of the loss of occupational tax and bankruptcy. Years of inattention have cause pavement conditions to degrade well past the point where normal maintenance is sufficient and repair is requiring much more extensive removal and reconstruction to restore the roadway. The Department is working to implement a pavement management system to optimize budget decisions. Much like replacing the shingles on the house before leaks develop, it is important to shift from rehabilitation to preventative maintenance to provide drivers a better road surface with fewer cracks, ruts and potholes and stretch maintenance dollars further. To do that, though, its necessary to get the old and failed roads back up to standard.
Last year the Department completed 98 miles of in house paving and 25 miles of major paving projects, in addition to emergency maintenance and pothole repair, mowing and other maintenance activities County wide. It is currently on track to meet in-house paving targets. In order to continue to catch up on much needed projects as well as normal maintenance, the Commission has allocated over $32 million dollars for capital projects including paving, drainage, safety and bridge type projects.
In total, the Jefferson County Roads and Transportation department is responsible for:
• Maintaining more than 1800 miles of road
• 11,500 drainage crossings
• 310 bridges
• 5,100 acres of road to mow/keep clear
• 41,500 traffic signs to maintain
• 434 traffic signals
• and litter pick up
In addition to this work the Roads and Transportation Department is developing ways to help cities within the county utilize their gas tax revenues.
“Many of the smaller municipalities within the County don’t have the machinery or expertise in-house to pave or do road improvements,” said County Manager Tony Petelos, CEO of Jefferson County. “We’ve been asked come up with a master agreement where we can help cities with these projects and help utilize the new gas tax revenues.”
When the Gas Tax was passed it was very specific on what it can and can’t be used for. It can only be used for construction contracts or for purchasing road construction materials under bids. It can’t be used for purchasing equipment, for salaries, or design consultants. These limitations may put some smaller municipalities at a disadvantage, since they don’t have the staff or equipment to do the work themselves, and it would take years to save for a construction project big enough to get good prices. Years that their roads are continuing to decay. Jefferson County has the equipment and personnel to manage paving projects, so working together to get projects done makes sense. The County has created a new master agreement that the cities can enter into for the County to help them get much needed road projects done.
“We won’t tell the cities what projects the cities need to do, they will tell us,” said Heather Carter, Director of Roads and Transportation. “We can certainly advise them on the feasibility of certain projects, engineering best practices and the likely costs, as well as help them develop a yearly transportation plan, but it will be up to them to prioritize – we will then have the task of scheduling and coordinating the work. It’s going to be important that we come up with good plans and stick to those plans to make sure we are efficiently spending their dollars in ways that get them good quality at a reasonable cost. It will take a little bit of time to develop the management plans and collect all the data some of the cities need. But, upfront planning is crucial to make good decisions and stretch dollars as far as possible.”
About Jefferson County
Founded in 1819, Jefferson County is Alabama’s most populated county with more than 660,000 residents. The County is governed by five commissioners elected from specific districts. Detailed information on those districts and services provided by Jefferson County can be found at www.jccal.org.