County approves FY 2020 transportation plan

Coffee County Commissioners on Monday approved a transportation plan identifying four resurfacing projects to undertake with funds from the new gas tax effective Sept. 1.

According to documentation provided by County Engineer Marty Lentz, the projects are resurfacing and traffic striping of County Road 723 from Alabama Hwy. 27 to County Road 708; resurfacing and crack sealing of Heritage Heights in Enterprise; resurfacing and traffic striping of County Road 200 to the Pike County line; and resurfacing and traffic striping of County Road 110 from County Road 107 to the Dale County Line using Federal Aid Exchange Funds (FAEF).

Coffee County expects to receive a total of $832,000 in County Rebuild Alabama Funds (CRAF) from the first wave of the new gas tax, which begins with a six-cent hike for drivers paying at the pump.

Per the transportation plan estimates, the county will also use local funds in completing the projects.

The County Road 723 project will use $240,000 in CRAF and $180,000 in local county funds for a total of $420,000 in completion cost. Heritage Heights will use $100,000 from CRAF and $75,000 from local county funds. County Road 200 work will be paid for with $235,000 from CRAF and local county funds of $10,000.

The Coffee County 100 project, meanwhile, will be paid for with $257,000 from FAEF and $268,000 in local county funds for total estimated cost of $525,000.

“We knew that we wanted to utilize this new funding for our local roads,” said County Engineer Marty Lentz of money from the Rebuild Alabama Act, which will begin with an initial six-cent hike next month. “We took the 2019 annual road inspection and we looked at the local roads that needed resurfacing. As it stands right now, there’s 226 miles of local roads in Coffee County. We analyzed our inspections, and we found there’s 42 local roads in need of resurfacing right now at a total of 91.7 miles -- so that’s about 40 percent of our local roads that need resurfacing.”

Lentz said funding is simply not available for resurfacing 91 miles of road, so traffic counts were used on the 42 roads to determine priority. The $832,000 will be applied toward the resurfacing of 11.87 miles.

“We took this plan and pushed it out for six years,” said Lentz. “This is year one. We’re going after the (roads) on the list of 42 roads that have the highest volume of traffic.  The first one on the list is County Road 723. It had over 800 cars a day. With the majority of all the other local roads, you’ll see anywhere from 100 to 200 a day, so 723 really stood out.”

Commissioner Dean Smith said there will be some “politics involved” in the future as commissioners each have roads in their district that have “needs” regardless of traffic counts and commissioners will want to vie for their district roads to be repaired.

“It’s a tough thing to pick out everything based on traffic count, but we certainly understand (the importance of it),” Smith said.

“That was the way I could see to initially (do it) with some sort of processed data,” Lentz said. “That was a way to stretch our money, so to speak.”

Smith added there are other efforts “in trying to stretch our money” as well.

“We’re looking at different kinds of surface treatments to save a little money and still get the job done on some of the roads that have 40 or less cars per day,” said Smith said. “Haven’t made any decisions yet, but we’ve looked at it.”

Lentz said the county is “going to look at every tool in the toolbox to try to make this money go as far as we can.”

Commissioner Josh Carnley said he believed the public should know that the county looked into financing some of the necessary work.

“At the end of the day, there’s no value in financing and taking on long-term debt,” Carnley said. “We’re just going to take it as we go.”

Smith said there is a still a “monumental task” ahead due to the number of miles needing to be addressed.

“We’ll just be doing some every year,” Smith said. “Whoever is here 20 years from now, they’ll still be facing that same kind of problem of finding enough money to resurface those roads. That’s what this money is doing. So bear with us, your road is coming some day we hope.”  

The Rebuild Alabama Act requires counties and municipalities to submit transportation plans showing how they will use gax tax funds by Aug. 31 each year.

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