MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WKRG) — The Baldwin County Bridge Company filed a lawsuit against Director of the Alabama Department of Transportation John Cooper on Thursday alleging that Cooper has abused his power to harm the company, which operates the Beach Express Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in Orange Beach. ALDOT in a statement called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

The complaint alleges that Cooper “has been on a mission to destroy BCBC’s contractual rights and to force BCBC out of business.” The lawsuit outlines years of alleged abuse of power.

The lawsuit was filed a day after WKRG News 5 reported that ALDOT green-lit a $53 million project to build a new bridge to offer a fourth way onto Pleasure Island.

BCBC’s lawsuit accuses Cooper of abusing his position as ALDOT director by:

  • “attempting to force BCBC to lower its tolls and relinquish
    the BEX Bridge outright”
  • “ordering his Department to proceed with an admittedly unnecessary
    new bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway”
  • “causing his Department to attempt to condemn BCBC’s property as well as other property in the area in furtherance of that unnecessary bridge”

BCBC alleged that Cooper pushed ALDOT to build the new bridge though “no bridge is required or necessary.” Earlier in the week, Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said he had been hopeful the new bridge project would move forward. But BCBC’s lawsuit claims “no studies have been provided to BCBC or made public which show a need for a bridge at the proposed location.”

BCBC said in the lawsuit they have negotiated with ALDOT and offered to “build a new bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway adjacent to the BEX Bridge at no cost to Alabama taxpayers, waive any tolls on the BEX Bridge for local residents, and make substantial financial contributions to advancing the infrastructure needs of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.”

The lawsuit asks that a judge file an injunction to block the construction of the new Intracoastal Waterway bridge.

ALDOT spokesperson Tony Harris released the following statement about the lawsuit:

ALDOT wants to build a bridge that reduces traffic congestion and improves quality of life. The foreign-owned toll bridge company wants to protect their profits without regard to how long people wait in traffic. This frivolous lawsuit will waste taxpayer money and seeks to delay a local improvement project the area clearly needs. Any delay will only exacerbate the traffic problems on the Gulf Coast and hurt the people of Baldwin County.

For years, ALDOT engaged in good faith negotiations, but the toll bridge company refused to agree to any requirements to reduce traffic congestion and instead demanded a 50-year guarantee that no other bridge would be built in the area, regardless of need. This company wanted a promise that their monopoly, which has never worked, would be protected for another 50 years. It’s hard to imagine a worse idea.

Like the many Alabamians and visitors who are tired of sitting in traffic on Alabama’s coast, we look forward to the completion of the free, public bridge.

Tony Harris, ALDOT

W reached out to the attorneys representing BCBC. They were not available for comment Friday afternoon, but we expect to hear back from them on Monday.

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