About 750 miles of Tallapoosa County roads are paved but keeping them up is not easy.
Thanks to Rebuild Alabama funding more maintenance to the county’s roads can be done. Tallapoosa County engineer David Moore said the additional $900,000 in funding through Rebuild Alabama is great but Tallapoosa County has gotten great use of other gas tax funding and more.
“We are very thankful for Rebuild Alabama funding because it is getting us ahead at least twice the rate,” Moore said. “The commission is doing all it can with the funds it has, including using discretionary funds.”
None of the funding for roads includes all-out new paving with milling away inches of asphalt, sealing crackings, the application of a binding layer and finally a wear layer of asphalt as that costs above $1 million per mile. Instead Tallapoosa County chooses pavement preservation projects that include patching, leveling and surface treatments of paved roads to stretch funding as far as possible.
“Obviously we can’t afford to do full paving projects,” Moore said.
Pavement preservation projects for fiscal year 2022 include portions or all of Washington Street, Elkahatchee Road, Pearson Chapel Road, Goodwater Road, Germany's Ferry Road, Concord Road, South Tallassee Drive and Gammils Store Road.
About 80% of the county’s pavement preservation is contracted out through bids. Requests for additional funding have been made for Camp ASCCA Road and Pearson Chapel Road.
“We have done some patching and leveling on Pearson Chapel but this would be for resurfacing,” Moore said.
Grants through Rebuild Alabama are making larger projects come to life. The bridge at Germany’s Ferry was cleaned and primed and all of the substructure and superstructure steel was painted.
“We know we added at least 50 years to the life of the bridge,” Moore said. “It was needed. We have a couple of other bridges that need it and we are applying for grants for those.”
Another grant will see the widening and resurfacing of County Road 34 East between U.S. Highway 280 and Highway 49 this winter and next spring.
Projects on the radar include Overlook Road and County Road 34 West and requests for additional funding have been made for them.
Since the Rebuild Alabama Act began in 2019 Tallapoosa County has received almost $2 million.
“We receive the county portion of the Rebuild Alabama funds monthly,” Moore said. “It accumulates over time. The County Road 34 project is a lump sum grant. We had to match it at 20%. It is a project we could not have afforded otherwise.”
Rebuild Alabama funds free up other gas tax revenues to allow the county to do even more work, but the older gas tax funds limit where the county can spend the monies. Most have been on the books for decades.
“It’s a job to keep it all separate,” Moore said. “There’s different rules for each of these funds. We have to keep them separate and bid accordingly.”
The first is a 7-cent gas tax which handles equipment purchases, employees in the road department and for paying for utilities at shops. A 4- and 5-cent tax, commonly referred to together as 3R funds can only be spent on paved roads and bridges. And there is one more.
“The 2-cent gas tax is what is spent on unpaved roads,” Moore said. “It’s the smallest of the funds. Most of those funds are used for grading unpaved roads, adding base and adding rock where necessary.”
Moore said over the years county commissioners have used discretionary funds to help improve county roads.
“The commissioners have done a great job over the years of putting surface treatment on unpaved roads that had a lot of houses,” Moore said. “That has been done throughout my tenure. The commissioners are the one to thank for that. It had nothing to do with us.”
Moore said the county is constantly looking for and applying for grants to allow even more road work. Moore said just because a road is in poor shape does not mean it gets to the top of the repair list at the moment.
“Once we get the higher-traffic volume roads done we will branch down to lower traffic roads and improve those as well,” Moore said. “Higher traffic roads are a priority with county Rebuild Alabama funds. Tallapoosa County has done a great job with the resources it has had and spreading it as far as it could.”