Rep. Wes Kitchens voted for the new Alabama gas tax.
But he said the accountability measures that were put in place were the key to him voting yes.
“The money can only go to roads, bridges and infrastructure,” he said. “It can’t go to salaries, buildings or equipment, strictly infrastructure. That’s huge.
He said the County Commission and City Councils, including Guntersville, passed resolutions supporting the gas tax.
“The county and our cities will see increased revenues coming back to this area for roads,” Kitchens said. “In District 27 along, it should be $3.9 million coming in annually. There’s also a pot of $60 million that will allow cities and counties to apply for job-specific funds.”
He said the Marshall County Commission has 114 bridges.
“The average life span of a bridge is 50 years,” Kitchens said. “Half of Marshall County’s bridges are past that life span. I have traveled all around our state. If you’ve driving down Interstate 65 to the beach, you’ve seen some of the needs. We have needs all over this state.”
He said he had phone calls from constituents who were against the tax.
“Once I explained the actual numbers to them, I think a lot of them understood,” Kitchens said.
He said surrounding states have already raised their gas tax to improve infrastructure.
“It was important for us to do the same thing so we
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could stat competitive in recruiting industry,” Kitchens said.
The gas tax earmarks money for the Port of Mobile to widen and deepen the channel. He said a lot of north Alabama people disliked that at first. He’s been letting them know that a better, stronger port can have an impact on industry in Marshall County.
“The largest ships coming into the country from the Panama Canal currently have to unload in Miami and the goods go out from there by rail or truck,” Kitchens said. “Now we will have the largest port on the Gulf of Mexico and we can receive those ships. Our poultry and ag products from Marshall County can go down the Tennessee River and the Tenn-Tom and this will open Asian markets for our local companies. It’s a huge advantage.”
There’s been some criticism that legislative candidates were “vetted” beforehand so Gov. Kay Ivey would know if she had the votes to get the gas tax through before proposing it.
Kitchens said he was never contacted by the governor’s office about the gas tax prior to his election.
Kitchens said he was never contacted prior to his election about it by the governor or anyone from her office.
One project Kitchens would like to see with the new money is safety improvements at the intersection of Union Grove Road and Ala. 69 where numerous traffic accidents occur.
“I know people want a traffic light there, but the Alabama Department of Transportation won’t approve that,” Kitchens said. “But maybe we could build an acceleration lane similar to the one at Ala. 36 at U.S. 231 in Lacey’s Spring. That has the potential to help cut down on the number of wrecks.”
He told the Arab Tribune he’s looking at four-laning or building passing lanes on Ala. 69 from Arab to Cullman.
“That would help Arab industries get their goods to the interstate easier and might encourage new industries to come into the area,” he said.