Mobile River Bridge and Bayway: True cost of tolls

Mobile River Bridge

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Alabama Department of Transportation says the proposal to have drivers pay $6 each way to cross the planned Mobile River Bridge and Bayway is not final. But at that rate, the cost could actually be even higher for many drivers.

For those who live on one side of Mobile Bay and work or go to school on the other, the $6 toll, based on an average of 40 trips per month, would mean drivers would pay in the neighborhood of $2,880 per year.

ALDOT has also proposed a $90 per month pass for frequent users. That would lower the yearly rate to $1,080. Even so, the agency and its director John Cooper have gotten an ear full of push-back from those who oppose any plan for tolls.

“You have no idea what a 90 dollar fee a month can impact a family,” one protestor shouted during a meeting with Cooper in July. “If you knew then this wouldn’t even be on the table.”

The real cost for families with several vehicles could be much higher. Imagine a family with three vehicles that have to cross the bay for work or school each weekday. At $90 for a transponder for each vehicle, the price of tolls escalates to $270 per month or more than $3,200 per year.

And the cost may not stop there. For those who do not purchase transponders for their vehicles, the draft plan for the project calls for tolling companies to be able to add a 40% surcharge to cover the cost of capturing a picture of your license plate and sending you a bill. That would take the $6 toll to $8.40, each way. The draft also would allow the tolling company to charge a $5 fee per month to cover billing. That’s another $60 per year added to your toll bill.

Some small businesses could be severely impacted. News 5 spoke with one of them, Chris Francis Tree Service, which does business on both sides of the bay frequently. Due to the nature of the business, they need equipment.

Francis said, “So our typical crew is going to have three trucks going over, a bucket truck, a grapple truck and then a pickup truck with a trailer and I’ve estimated 54 dollars each way, so we’re looking at over a hundred dollars just to go to Mobile and back.”
It’s an issue that could apply to hundreds of small businesses, and big ones alike. ALDOT says two free routes will remain open; Battleship Causeway and the Cochran-Africatown Bridge.  However, Francis says that’s not much help in his case.

“At least one of those routes, we can’t fit our trucks in, and so we’re not going to be able to go through downtown,” he said.

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