To the editor:
Recently I rode over to the Tiki Restaurant in Gautier, Mississippi to have lunch. I took I-10 on a Thursday. My wife and I do this at least once a month. Traffic on the Interstate moved along well with no one obeying the 70 mph speed limit, but no wrecks, just several examples of drivers committing the crime of “Exhibiting Public Stupidity,” as is typical.
As my wife drove I looked at the volume and variety of vehicles and state tags. I did not do a scientific survey, but I did see that the overwhelming percentage of vehicles were not from Alabama, much less Mobile and Baldwin counties. Traffic was heavy going both ways and reminded me of Midwestern roads. Lots of big semis are everywhere. America absolutely depends on trucks to keep our economy going. I realized that there is no way we can do without Interstate highways, and many are already overcrowded and need to be widened and repaired, especially the bridges. We have a lot of bridges along the Gulf Coast and the American economy depends on our Interstate system functioning well. Sadly we see evidence of deficiencies almost every day.
The Interstate Highway system should be the responsibility of the Federal government. Whatever we thought when we began the system in the 1950s, the burden of this national transportation web is now beyond the means of individual states to maintain. What would we do if a state said it could not pay for the portion of the system lying within its borders? Would we allow that portion of the highway system to close? Of course not — we couldn’t stand the mess that would cause. Suppose several states simply could not pay the bills, then what? Our economy would be reduced to chaos. It would mean a coast-to-coast traffic jam, layoffs, stores closing, shortages of almost everything, and on and on.
Alabama may have one of the poorest state governments, but we are not alone. If it came to it where would the federal Government find the necessary money? The honest answer is that Washington would have to dramatically rearrange its priorities, which is not such a bad idea!
Now we are staring down the barrel of building a Bay Bridge structure Alabama can’t afford to serve the nation’s needs. While it would be the supreme act of Southern Hospitality to offer such a gift to the nation, it is simply foolish to expect it. I-10 is a Federal responsibility — all of it. The $2.1 billion project should not fall to this one state to support financially. Even more obviously it is not fair to expect Baldwin and Mobile counties to pay a large toll for this project. The national economy needs it even more than we do.
As my granddaughter told me when I asked her to do something at age 10, “Not going to happen granddaddy!” Out of the mouths of children!
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