MONTGOMERY, Alabama --- The Alabama House of Representatives and Senate passed bills today intended to help some counties obtain matching funds to draw federal money to pay for bridge and road projects.
The bills, by Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, and Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, would allow the Alabama Highway Finance Corporation to issue up to $25 million in bonds that could be used for the matching funds. The Alabama Highway Finance Corporation is a public corporation established by the Legislature to sell bonds for road projects.
Either Bussman's bill or McCutcheon's bill would have to pass the other house to become law.
The $25 million will be used to fund the Rural Assistance Match Program. Twenty-two counties opted to participate in RAMP. They can receive up to $1 million from the state to obtain up to $4 million in federal funds for bridge and road projects.
As a tradeoff, those counties will not take part in the next round of competition for dollars under the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program.
Gov. Robert Bentley announced the creation of ATRIP in March 2012. Over a three-year period, up to $1 billion in federal highway funds will be distributed through ATRIP, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation.
ATRIP, administered by the ALDOT, provides federal funds for up to 80 percent of the cost of road and bridge projects.
ATRIP is funded by what are called GARVEE bonds, grant anticipation revenue vehicles, which use as collateral the future federal highway money the state is expected to receive.
Under ATRIP, cities and counties submit project applications to ALDOT, which reviews the applications and submits eligible ones to a committee appointed by the governor. The committee, in conjunction with the governor, decides which projects are funded, according to ALDOT.
As of Feb. 4, a total of 439 projects had been approved under ATRIP, with a total cost of $613 million.
Under the plan, counties and local governments are expected to provide at least 20 percent of the project costs. Sixty-one of the state’s 67 counties have received some ATRIP funding.
Bussman said RAMP was conceived as an option for those counties that had difficulty raising the 20 percent matches to participate in ATRIP.
“The concern I had was we had counties in my district and other districts that were going to be left out,” Bussman said.
The 22 counties that opted to take part in RAMP, in exchange for the $5 million guarantee in state matching money and federal money, won’t take part in the next round of competition for ATRIP funds.
Counties that take part in RAMP must make replacement of bridges used by school buses their first priority for using the money.
The 45 counties that opted not to take part in RAMP will be guaranteed at least $10 million in ATRIP funding. That amount is in addition to what those counties received when the initial ATRIP funding was announced last year.
The Association of County Commissions of Alabama supports the establishment of RAMP and today’s bills that would provide funding.
“The ATRIP program was initially conceived as competitive, and a number of counties really aren’t able to compete because they don’t have the matching funds,” said Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the ACCA. “Without RAMP, those 22 counties would have been completely left behind.”
The 22 counties in RAMP are: Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Crenshaw, Dale, Fayette, Geneva, Hale, Henry, Lawrence, Lowndes, Marengo, Marion, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Wilcox and Winston.