ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WKRG) — What could be good news for locals and tourists also puts on hold a plan that would have provided another way on and off Pleasure Island.
Thousands of motorists cross the Foley Beach Express toll bridge every year to get to Alabama’s beaches and every year they get stuck in traffic.
“We have been working with the bridge company, that is the city of Orange Beach, to try and come up with a solution to the bottleneck that is now the bridge,” says Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon.
That solution may be; expanding the toll bridge. two lanes north, two lanes south. More than doubling the number of toll booths to 11, having a reduced toll for Baldwin County residents, and introducing a mechanism to control the number of tolls charged to everyone else that uses the bridge. Mayor Kennon believes it is the best option. “The new bridge company will build the new bridge at their expense, they will pay for the expansion of the toll booths the fly-throughs at their expense. Won’t cost the Alabama taxpayer a dime.”
The new plan has put on hold a proposed new bridge in Gulf Shores connecting Foley Beach Express to Canal Road. That project was set to go out for bid Friday.
Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft called the delay disappointing. He released a statement this afternoon to News Five and says 50 thousand cars cross the bridge in Gulf Shores each day compared to 11 thousand that take the toll bridge.
He says it’s “not because the toll bridge can’t handle more vehicles or Highway 59 is a quicker route. This is only because drivers are clearly choosing to use a free public route overpaying a private toll.” He continues by saying, “ALDOT’s new bridge is designed, the right-of-way has been acquired, permits are in hand and the funding is in place. The new owners of the toll bridge have had a chance to provide an acceptable solution for the last three years and have failed to do so. The time for negotiating has passed. It is time for ALDOT to build the new bridge. Our residents, visitors, and Alabama’s beaches are depending on it.”
Kennon says it’s not time to commit to one plan or the other until it’s proven to be the best option. “The bridge towards Gulf Shores is not going to be the most efficient way to move traffic however if we can’t work with the bridge company that will be our only choice.”
The city of Orange Beach has a profit-sharing agreement with the Baldwin County Bridge Company. For every vehicle that crosses the bridge, the city receives .30 cents. That’s almost a million and a half dollars a year although Mayor Kennon says the real incentive is to keep traffic moving.