UPDATE 2 PM: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey making her first public comments on the proposed tolls for the I-10 River Bridge Project. Last week the governor called for the first meeting of the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority in years. The governor says the I-10 bridge project is needed for the economy and public safety.
“I want to work with people to find viable solutions so this project can go forward, it’s needed, it’s been in the works for some 22 years and we’ve got to find a way that’s reasonable and viable,” said Ivey. Alabama’s Governor is not necessarily coming out in favor of tolls but pointing out it may be the only idea for financing right now.
“I think everyone would be happy if there were no tolls but we have to find a way to pay for the bridge, what are your suggestions?” she asked a reporter rhetorically. “I’m looking at all options if we can get it lower that’s what we need to do, if we can have no toll, that would be fine but we have to find a way to pay for this thing.”
The Alabama Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority meets on September 17th. That’s the same day that Fairhope and Spanish Fort have a property tax vote on school funding. The governor said she wasn’t aware of a schedule conflict adding that they want as many people as possible to attend.
UPDATE 8 AM: State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a vocal toll opponent, is among those pointing out a scheduling conflict for next months public meeting on the bridge project. The meeting in Montgomery falls on the same day as tax referendums in Fairhope and Spanish Fort. Those are two Baldwin County cities on the Eastern Shore that are expected to feel the impact of tolls if one is implemented.
ORIGINAL STORY: ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WKRG) — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is in Southwest Alabama later today for the first time since calling for a meeting to discuss controversial tolls attached to the I-10 Mobile River Bridge project.
Amid the uproar over ALDOT’s toll proposal, Ivey called for a meeting of the state’s rarely convened Toll Road Bridge and Tunnel Authority. The governor’s letter said she wants to sit down with ALDOT, federal officials and other stakeholders including members of the public to talk about the project and the best way forward. Her letter seemed to neither condemn nor support tolls. She said she’s sensitive to what a toll could do to families and businesses that have to pay it. Ivey also acknowledged the cost of doing nothing is high.
The governor is slated to speak this morning at the Economic Development Association of Alabama Summer Conference. That’s this morning at 11:30 at Perdido Beach Resort. We expect to ask her more about the toll issue.