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New TRIP Report Identifies Top Transportation Improvements Needed To Support Alabama’s Economic Growth, Including Projects To Address Deteriorated And Congested Roadways, Deficient Bridges, Needed Safety Improvements

image001A new report identifies Alabama’s 50 most needed transportation improvements to address deficient, crowded or congested roads, highways and bridges throughout the state. The deteriorated and congested conditions threaten to stifle economic growth and development in Alabama, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research organization.

The report, “The Top 50 Highway Projects to Support Economic Growth and Quality of Life in Alabama,” identifies the transportation improvements most needed to support economic growth and quality of life in Alabama. These improvements include projects to build, expand or modernize the state’s network of highways and bridges. Making needed transportation improvements would enhance economic development opportunities throughout the state by increasing mobility and freight movement, easing congestion, improving safety, and making Alabama an attractive place to live, visit and do business. A lack of adequate transportation funding is the constraining factor in developing and delivering these needed improvements.

The 20 most needed transportation improvements to support economic growth in the state, as identified by the TRIP report, are detailed below. Additional information about each project can be found in the report.

 

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The needed highway projects identified in the TRIP report would require an investment of $4.6 billion to complete. The needed projects include 10 widening projects on 63 miles of Alabama’s Interstate highway system. Based on forecast traffic growth, approximately 630 miles of Alabama’s Interstate Highway System are currently or will become congested and will need additional capacity to accommodate economic growth in the state.

“Birmingham serves as a crucial transportation hub in the Southeast, therefore we need to enhance our infrastructure in order to be competitive and protect our future in economic development,” said Brian Hilson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. “The TRIP report outlines road projects that will spark economic growth and ensure public safety.”

According to the TRIP report, 16 percent of Alabama’s major urban roads are in poor condition. Nine percent of bridges are structurally deficient, meaning they have significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional 13 percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete. These bridges no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.

Alabama’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.31 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013 is significantly higher than the national average of 1.09. The fatality rate on Alabama’s rural non-Interstate roads was 2.11 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013, approximately two-and-a-half times the 0.83 fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state.

Enhancing critical segments of Alabama’s transportation system will boost the state’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs in construction and related fields. In the long-term these improvements will enhance economic competitiveness and improve quality of life for the state’s residents and visitors by reducing travel delays and transportation costs, improving access and mobility, improving safety, and stimulating sustained job growth. Sustaining Alabama’s long-term economic growth and maintaining the state’s quality of life will require increased investment in expanding the capacity of the state’s transportation system, which will enhance business productivity and support short- and long-term job creation in the state.

“Investing in Alabama’s transportation system and addressing these challenges by improving the condition and efficiency of the state’s roads and bridges will be an effective step in boosting the state’s economy, enhancing quality of life and making Alabama an attractive place to live, work and visit,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.

The Top 50 Highway

Projects to Support Economic Growth and Quality of Life in Alabama

Executive Summary

Alabama’s highway system has played a significant role in the state’s development, providing mobility and access for residents, visitors, businesses and industry. The state’s roads, highways and bridges remain the backbone of the Yellowhammer State’s economy. Alabama’s transportation system also provides for a high quality of life and makes the state a desirable place to live, visit and do business.        Eight years after the nation suffered a significant economic downturn, Alabama’s economy continues to rebound. The rate of economic growth in Alabama, which will be greatly impacted by the reliability and condition of the state’s transportation system, continues to have a significant impact on quality of life in the Yellowhammer State.

To achieve sustainable economic growth, Alabama must proceed with numerous projects to improve key roads, bridges and highways. Enhancing critical segments of Alabama’s transportation system will boost the state’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs in construction and related fields. In the long-term these improvements will boost economic competitiveness and improve quality of life for the state’s residents and visitors by reducing travel delays and transportation costs, improving access and mobility, improving safety, and stimulating sustained job growth.

Many segments of Alabama’s transportation system have significant deterioration, lack some desirable safety features, and do not have adequate capacity to provide the reliable mobility needed to support economic development, creating challenges for Alabama’s residents, visitors, businesses and state and local governments. This report looks at the condition and use of Alabama’s roads, highways and bridges and provides information on the state’s 50 most needed highway improvements to support economic growth and quality of life.

With a wide based economy including agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, natural resource extraction, finance, healthcare, technology, and tourism, the quality of Alabama’s transportation system will play a vital role in the state’s level of economic growth and quality of life.

The federal government is a significant source of transportation funding for Alabama. In December 2015, Congress passed and the president signed into law a long-term federal surface transportation program that includes modest funding increases and allows state and local governments to plan and finance projects with greater certainty through 2020. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) provides approximately $305 billion for surface transportation with highway and transit funding slated to increase by approximately 15 and 18 percent, respectively, over the five-year duration of the program. While the modest funding increase and certainty provided by the FAST Act are a step in the right direction, , the funding falls far short of the level of needed to improve conditions and meet the nation’s mobility needs and fails to deliver a sustainable, long-term source of revenue for the federal Highway Trust Fund.

As Alabama works to build and support a thriving and diverse economy, it will need to modernize its highway system by improving the physical condition of its roads, highways and bridges and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient, safe and reliable mobility to the state’s residents, visitors and businesses. Making needed improvements to Alabama’s roads, highways and bridges will provide a significant boost to the state’s economy by stimulating short and long-term economic growth.

In this report, TRIP examines recent transportation and economic trends in Alabama and provides information on highway projects in the state that are most needed to support economic growth. Sources of data include the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the U.S. Census Bureau. All data used in the report is the latest available.

TRIP has identified the 50 highway projects that are most needed to support Alabama’s economic growth. These projects are located throughout the state.

  • The most needed highway improvements in Alabama include projects to build, expand or modernize roads, highways and bridges throughout the state. These improvements would enhance economic development opportunities throughout the state by increasing mobility and freight movement, easing congestion, and making Alabama an attractive place to live, visit and do business.
  • TRIP evaluated each project based on the following criteria: short-term economic benefits, including job creation; the level of improvement in the condition of the transportation facility, including safety improvements; the degree of improvement in access and mobility; and the long-term improvement provided in regional or state economic performance and competitiveness.
  • The needed highway projects identified in the TRIP report would require an investment of $4.6 billion to complete.
  • The needed improvements identified in this report include 10 widening projects on 63 miles of Alabama’s Interstate highway system. Based on forecast traffic growth, approximately 630 miles of Alabama’s Interstate Highway System are currently or will become congested and will need additional capacity to accommodate economic growth in the state.
  • Alabama’s 20 most needed highway projects to support economic development in the state as determined by TRIP follow. Additional details for these and all 50 projects can be found in the report’s Appendix.
  1. Adding lanes to a portion of I-65 in Shelby County. This $54 million project would add lanes to 3.5 miles of I-65 from US 31 to CR-52. This suburban commuter route experiences frequent congestion, traffic delays and resulting safety issues. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  2. Capacity improvements on I-10 from downtown Mobile across the Mobile Bay. This $850 million project would expand the capacity of 1.5 miles of I-10 in Mobile from Texas Street to the Eastern Shore. I-10 is a critical freight route carrying large volumes from Gulf of Mexico ports across the nation. Traffic is currently constricted by a four-lane tunnel, causing delays, frequent congestion and safety concerns. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  3. Expand capacity of I-59 in Birmingham. Improvements are needed to expand capacity and enhance mobility on 8.5 miles of I-59 in Birmingham from 1st Avenue North to Chalkville Road. This urban interstate route is experiencing growth and frequent congestion, delays and safety issues. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  4. Widening US 98 to four lanes from the Mississippi State Line to Mobile. This $36 million project would widen 12 miles of US 98 to four lanes from the Mississippi state line to Mobile. This corridor is one of the highest volume two-lane roads in the state. Crashes occur at a high frequency and commuters experience daily delays during peak travel periods. Widening will ease congestion, reduce delays, improve safety and enhance the economic potential for the route.
  5. Expand capacity on a portion of I-59 in Birmingham. Improvements are needed to expand capacity and enhance mobility on 10 miles of I-59 in Birmingham from I-459 to Valley Road. This route is experiencing growth and congestion. Traffic delays and safety concerns are increasing. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  6. Adding lanes to US 231 in Dothan. This $32 million project would add lanes to nearly three miles of US 231 (Ross Clark Circle) in Dothan. This route is experiencing growth, frequent congestion, travel delays and safety issues. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  7. Widening US-11 in Tuscaloosa. This $7 million project would widen US-11 (McFarland Boulevard) to four lanes from CR-27 to 36th This corridor is one of the highest volume two-lane routes in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Widening to four lanes will ease congestion and reduce travel delays. The four-laning will enhance the economic potential for the route and provide better access to Stillman College.
  8. Widening SR 133 in Shoals. This $44 million project would widen four miles of SR 133 from SR 20 to SR 184 from two lanes to four lanes. This corridor is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  9. Widening SR 14 in Montgomery. This $4 million project would widen SR 14 from the end of the current four-lane segment in Millbrook to SR 143. This section is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  10. Adding lanes to a portion of I-65 in Birmingham. This $86 million project would add lanes to 4.5 miles of I-65 in Birmingham, from CR 87 to US 31. This suburban route is experiencing growth and frequent congestion. Traffic delays are increasing and safety is a concern. Added capacity will facilitate the continued growth in the area, improve mobility, reduce congestion and enhance safety. This route carries a large amount of commuter traffic, serving workers who live in the Shelby County suburbs and commute to downtown Birmingham.
  11. Widening SR 119 from I-65 to US 280 in Birmingham. This $80 million project would widen eight miles of SR 119 from two lanes to four lanes from I-65 to US 280. This corridor is one of the highest volume two-lane routes in the state, causing delays at peak hours. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  12. New Freeway Bypass around Montgomery. This $91 million project would construct a new freeway bypass around Montgomery, from Vaughn Road to US 231. A new bypass will add capacity to the transportation network and improve mobility in the area. A new route will open new areas for economic development and better serve existing industry.
  13. Adding lanes to I-10 from the Mississippi State Line to Mobile. This $146 million project would add lanes to 15 miles of I-10 from the Mississippi State Line to Carol Plantation Road in Mobile. This interstate route carries very high traffic volumes and experiences frequent congestion and travel delays. I-10 is the southernmost interstate route from California to Florida. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  14. Adding lanes to I-10 in Eastern Shore. This $48 million project would add lanes to I-10 from US 98 at the Mobile Bay to SR 181. This interstate route carries commuter traffic between Mobile and Baldwin County, which is experiencing high residential growth, generating high volumes of travel to jobs in Mobile. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  15. Construct a four-lane route along US 82. This $110 million project would provide a 20 mile, four-lane route along US 82 from Reform to the Tuscaloosa County Line. Currently, a four-lane connection to the interstate from the populated areas of the county does not exist. A four lane interstate connector will improve mobility and enhance the economic potential of the county.
  16. Widening SR 69 in Cullman County. This $40 million project would widen 1.1 miles of SR 69 to four lanes from 4th Avenue to Cottage Hill Drive. This section of roadway is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  17. Widening SR 150 in Birmingham. This $7 million project would widen 0.8 miles of SR 150 from Lakeshore Parkway to Readers Gap Road. This section of roadway is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  18. Widening SR 77 in Gadsden. This $14 million project would widen 1.3 miles of SR 77 from Enterprise Road to SR 11. This section of roadway is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  19. Widening US 90 in Mobile. This $22 million project would widen 3.6 miles of US 90 to four lanes from CR 39 to Swedetown Road. Widening US 90 will extend the existing four lane section to the west of Mobile. This section of roadway is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state and experiences a high rate of crashes. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve access to the interstate, enhance mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  20. Widening US 411 in Birmingham. This $12 million project would widen US 411 to four lanes from Bankhead National Parkway to Cedar Grove Road in Birmingham. This section of road is one of the highest volume two-lane routes in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Widening will ease congestion, reduce delays, enhance safety and allow for economic growth.

Transportation projects that improve the efficiency, condition or safety of a highway provide significant economic benefits by reducing transportation delays and costs associated with a deficient transportation system.

  • Improved business competitiveness due to reduced production and distribution costs as a result of increased travel speeds and fewer mobility barriers.
  • Improvements in household welfare resulting from better access to higher-paying jobs, a wider selection of competitively priced consumer goods, additional housing and healthcare options, and improved mobility for residents without access to private vehicles.
  • Gains in local, regional and state economies due to improved regional economic competitiveness, which stimulates population and job growth.
  • Increased leisure/tourism and business travel resulting from the enhanced condition and reliability of a region’s transportation system.
  • A reduction in economic losses from vehicle crashes, traffic congestion and vehicle maintenance costs associated with driving on deficient roads.
  • Transportation projects that expand roadway or bridge capacity produce significant economic benefits by reducing congestion and improving access, thus speeding the flow of people and goods while reducing fuel consumption.
  • Transportation projects that maintain and preserve existing transportation infrastructure also provide significant economic benefits by improving travel speeds, capacity, load-carry abilities and safety, and reducing operating costs for people and businesses. Such projects also extend the service life of a road, bridge or transit vehicle or facility, which saves money by either postponing or eliminating the need for more expensive future repairs.
  • Highway accessibility was ranked the number two site selection factor behind only the availability of skilled labor in a 2013 survey of corporate executives by Area Development Magazine.
  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

Growth in population and vehicle travel has far outstripped the current capacity of Alabama’s transportation system. The state’s population and economy will continue to grow, bringing mounting challenges for the existing network of roads and bridges.

  • From 1990 to 2014, Alabama’s population increased by 20 percent, from approximately four million residents to approximately 4.8 million.
  • From 1990 to 2013, annual vehicle-miles-of-travel (VMT) in the state increased by 54 percent, from approximately 42.3 billion VMT to 65 billion VMT. Based on travel and population trends, TRIP estimates that vehicle travel in Alabama will increase another 35 percent by 2030.
  • Vehicle miles of travel in Alabama for the first ten months of 2015 were 3.4 percent higher than the first ten months of 2014. During the first ten months of 2015, U.S. vehicle miles of travel were 3.4 percent higher than the first ten months of 2014.
  • Every year, $183 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Alabama and another $189 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Alabama, mostly by trucks. Seventy-six percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Alabama are carried by trucks and another 15 percent are carried by parcel, U.S. Postal Service or courier services, which use trucks for part of their deliveries.

Alabama’s extensive transportation system has some road and bridge deficiencies, lacks some desirable safety features and experiences congestion in key areas. Improvements to the condition and efficiency of the state’s transportation system would enhance quality of life, roadway safety and economic development.

  • In 2013, 16 percent of Alabama’s major urban roads were in poor condition, 33 percent were in mediocre or fair condition, and 51 percent were in good condition. Six percent of Alabama’s rural roads were rated in poor condition in 2013, while 31 percent were rated in mediocre or fair condition and 63 percent were rated in good condition.
  • Nine percent of Alabama’s bridges were rated structurally deficient in 2014. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
  • In 2014, 13 percent of Alabama’s bridges were rated as functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards or are inadequate to accommodate current traffic levels, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
  • Several factors are associated with vehicle crashes that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway features. TRIP estimates that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes. A total of 4,293 people died on Alabama’s highways from 2010 through 2014, an average of 859 annually.
  • Alabama’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.31 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013 is significantly higher than the national average of 1.09.
  • The fatality rate on Alabama’s rural non-Interstate roads was 2.11 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013, approximately two-and-a-half times the 0.83 fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state.
  • Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion. Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; improved lighting; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and traffic signals.
  • Investments in rural traffic safety have been found to result in significant reductions in serious traffic crashes. A 2012 report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) found that improvements completed recently by the Texas Department of Transportation that widened lanes, improved shoulders and made other safety improvements on 1,159 miles of rural state roadways resulted in 133 fewer fatalities on these roads in the first three years after the improvements were completed (as compared to the three years prior).   TTI estimates that the improvements on these roads are likely to save 880 lives over the next 20 years.

According to a 2012 national report, improved access as a result of capacity expansions provides numerous regional economic benefits. Those benefits include higher employment rates, higher land value, additional tax revenue, increased intensity of economic activity, increased land prices and additional construction as a result of the intensified use. 

  • The projects analyzed in the report were completed no later than 2005 and included a wide variety of urban and rural projects, including the expansion or addition of major highways, beltways, connectors, bypasses, bridges, interchanges, industrial access roads, intermodal freight terminals and intermodal passenger terminals.
  • The expanded capacity provided by the projects resulted in improved access, which resulted in reduced travel-related costs, faster and more reliable travel, greater travel speeds, improved reliability, and increased travel volume.
  • The report found that improved transportation access benefits a region by: enhancing the desirability of an area for living, working or recreating, thus increasing its land value; increasing building construction in a region due to increased desirability for homes and businesses; increasing employment as a result of increased private and commercial land use; and increasing tax revenue as a result of increased property taxes, increased employment and increased consumption, which increases sales tax collection.
  • The report found that benefits of a transportation capacity expansion unfolded over several years and that the extent of the benefits were impacted by other factors including: the presence of complimentary infrastructure such as water, sewer and telecommunications; local land use policy; the local economic and business climate; and whether the expanded capacity was integrated with other public investment and development efforts.
  • For every $1 million spent on urban highway or intermodal expansion, the report estimated that an average of 7.2 local, long-term jobs were created at nearby locations as a result of improved access. An additional 4.4 jobs were created outside the local area, including businesses that supplied local businesses or otherwise benefited from the increased regional economic activity.
  • For every $1 million spent on rural highway or intermodal expansion, the report estimated that an average of 2.9 local, long-term jobs were created at nearby locations as a result of improved access. An additional 1.6 jobs were created outside the local area, including businesses that supplied local businesses or otherwise benefited from the increased regional economic activity.
  • The report found that highway and intermodal capacity projects in urban areas created a greater number of long-term jobs than in rural areas, largely due to the more robust economic environment and greater density in urban communities.

Investment in Alabama’s roads, highways and bridges is funded by local, state and federal governments.   The recently approved five-year federal surface transportation program includes modest funding increases and provides states with greater funding certainty, but falls far short of providing the level of funding needed to meet the nation’s highway and transit needs. The bill does not include a long-term and sustainable revenue source.

  • From 2009 to 2013, the federal government provided $1.28 for road improvements in Alabama for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fuel fees.
  • According to the 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report, a significant boost in investment in the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and public transit systems is needed to improve their condition and to meet the nation’s transportation needs.
  • AASHTO’s report found that annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges needs to increase 36 percent, from $88 billion to $120 billion, to improve conditions and meet the nation’s mobility needs, based on an annual one percent rate of vehicle travel growth. Investment in the nation’s public transit system needs to increase from $17 billion to $43 billion.
  • The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report found that if the national rate of vehicle travel increased by 1.4 percent per year, the needed annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges would need to increase by 64 percent to $144 billion. If vehicle travel grows by 1.6 percent annually the needed annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges would need to increase by 77 percent to $156 billion.

Sources of data for this report include the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the U.S. Census Bureau. All data used in the report is the latest available

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