Local planning boards could thwart toll, Bayway project

Local News

Analyst says Governor's office is in a panic after realizing local boards must sign off on plan

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — With public pressure mounting against a six dollar one-way toll on the proposed new Mobile River Bridge and Bayway, two local boards could be in position to stop the project.

“Somebody dropped the ball,” said Mobile-based political strategist Jon Gray, of the state’s failure to previously secure support of two local planning organizations.

Gray says if a freeway project uses any federal funding it needs to be in the “transportation infrastructure plan,” or TIP, of the local planning organizations. In the case of the Bayway project, that would be the Mobile County Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Eastern Shore MPO. The approvals are necessary by the end of the federal fiscal year, September 30. The Mobile County MCO will meet to vote Wednesday morning.

“I will vote against it,” said Mobile County County Commissioner Jerry Carl, a member of the Mobile County MPO.

Carl says he isn’t sure, but he hopes a no vote will kill the toll without killing the entire Bridge and Bayway project.

“We’re just going to have to take a chance because we can’t take a chance on the tolling itself,” Carl said. “So, we’ll vote it down, hopefully, and then we’ll just address that afterwards.”

Along with Carl, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson is on the planning board, as well as Mobile City Councilmen John Williams and Fred Richardson and seven Mobile County mayors.

“Looking at the Mobile County Planning organization, I think you’re going to see it pass through,” said Gray.

Gray says part of the reason is intense pressure being exerted on local planning organization members by Gov. Kay Ivey and her staff.

“I would say there was a full panic coming out of Montgomery when they realized that if the MPO’s in both Mobile and Baldwin don’t approve this, this thing could be dead.”

Gray says the pressure from Montgomery, though, will be nothing compared to the pressure from constituents, especially in Baldwin County

“The mayor of Daphne, the mayor of Fairhope, the mayor of Spanish Fort, the mayor of Loxley, I don’t see how any of those elected officials can vote in favor of this and choose to keep their jobs,” Gray said.

The Eastern Shore MPO will meet August 28 and then again September 25.

While the bulk of the project will be state funded, primarily through the proposed toll, $140 million in federal funds has already been spent in various planning stages and the state may have to tap into a federal bond program. That necessitates the approval of the local planning organizations.

Members of the two planning organizations are listed below:

Eastern Shore MPO

Mayor Dane Haygood, Chairman (City of Daphne)
Councilman Jack Burrell, Vice Chairman (City of Fairhope)
Councilman Ron Scott (City of Daphne)
Mayor Karin Wilson, (City of Fairhope)
Mayor Mike McMillan (City of Spanish Fort)
Councilman Richard Teal (Town of Loxley)
Commissioner Joe Davis (Baldwin County)
Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood (Baldwin County)
Matthew Ericksen, P.E., Division Engineer (Alabama Department of Transportation)

Mobile County MPO

Mayor, City of Mobile – Sandy Stimpson (MPO Chairman)
Mobile County Commissioner – Jerry Carl
Mobile County Engineer – Bryan Kegley
Councilman, City of Mobile – John Williams
Councilman, City of Mobile – Fred Richardson
Mayor, City of Prichard – Jimmie Gardner
Councilman, City of Prichard – Lorenzo Martin
Mayor, City of Chickasaw – Byron Pittman
Mayor, City of Saraland – Howard Rubenstein
Mayor, City of Satsuma – Thomas Williams
Mayor, City of Creola – William Criswell
Mayor, City of Bayou La Batre – Terry Downey
Mayor, City of Semmes – David Baker
General Manager, the Wave Transit System – Damon Dash
Southwest Region Engineer, ALDOT – Matt Eriksen
Member, SARPC – Open
Bureau Chief, Local Transportation, ALDOT (Non-voting) – D.E. “Ed” Phillips, Jr.
Division Administrator, FHWA (Non-voting) – Mr. Mark Bartlett
Executive Director, SARPC (Non-voting) – Mr. John F. “Rickey” Rhodes

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