From the publisher

A Silent Crisis

How many times have you complained about this county’s roads? Its bridges? As many times as you’ve lamented that taxes are far too high? You can’t put up with the conditions of the roads any more, and you surely can’t pay more taxes.

So where do we go from here?

That’s the dilemma the Blount County Commission and the engineering department struggle with daily.

The Association of County Engineers of Alabama has done the state a service in compiling and distributing A Silent Crisis, a factual assessment of the neglect of the rural road and bridge system statewide and the dire shortage of funds to repair it.

A Silent Crisis recalls the goal of the Farm to Market Act of 1943 was to pave 100 miles of roads in every county in 10 years. It took two years longer than the original goal, but it was met by 1955 with 6801 miles paved.

The program continued until 1967 when the gasoline distribution formula was changed, and the program was canceled in 1970.

Then in 2000, voters of the state approved an amendment that invested money from the Alabama Trust Fund in a county-bridge replacement program. This five-year program replaced nearly 600 structurally deficient county bridges.

Both programs moved the state forward at the time, but neither has kept up with ongoing, recurring needs.

“Alabama’s network of county-maintained roads and bridges is in critical condition, and there is tremendous urgency to act now,” says A Silent Crisis. “Without action, the program will only grow worse and more costly. Regular operating dollars certainly are not sufficient; citizens need a long-term plan for roads and bridges. …

“A sustainable, new revenue source must be found to solve this problem. Without a solution, our state will not be able to sustain its economic development growth, and our quality of life will suffer.

“Today the decaying condition of Alabama’s rural transportation system is evident to even the most uninformed driver. Crumbling pavement, sinking bridges, and deteriorating shoulders are commonplace in every county. For decades the problems have existed and worsened. County governments have cried for the resources to address the infrastructure needs, but these efforts have essentially fallen on deaf ears…

“Do we wait until another bridge fails or a roadway claims another life, or do we find solutions to the funding issue? So far, Alabama’s only answer has been to delay a decision to another day, another year, or another decade.”

Can’t put up with the roads? Can’t pay more taxes? Then what?