A lot of people want to know if there’s another option other than the proposed toll bridge to cross Mobile River and Bay. We went straight to the source and found out there were actually fourteen options.
“The main thing that was against those alternatives were they didn’t meet the purpose and need, and the cost to put in those alternatives exceeded the for-built alternatives we narrowed it down to,” said Edwin Perry, Mobile River Bridge Project Director.
The option chosen comes with a $2.1-billion dollar price tag, plus interest. That’s a price we’ll be paying for 50 years after construction is complete. ALDOT officials say after 50 years, the toll goes away, even if the project isn’t paid off. If it’s paid off in fewer than 50 years, Perry said, “When the project is paid off we don’t intend to continue the toll.”
So where did the 6-dollar figure for the toll come from?
Perry said, “With seeing the amount that the project would cost and seeing the terms and conditions on how to repay those loans we came up where it would be best to come up with a $6 tolling rate and a 55 year concession period with 50 of those years being the time that tolls would be collected.”
This project has been in the works since 1997. Allison Gregg with the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project says the reason the project is moving forward now involves money and technology.
“State and local government simply doesn’t have that money and tolling is required to bring this project to fruition. All-electronic tolling will allow drivers to maintain safe speeds as they travel the corridor. In the past we would have had to have had toll booths, and that wouldn’t have solved the problem of congestion. People would be stopping at the toll booth to pay,” Gregg said.
She says there’s no federal money available for the project right now.
“Where is that federal funding? We’ve been looking for federal funding for 22 years. Last week we reserved our first grant for $125-million and we are going to continue looking for funding, local, state, and federal to bring it to fruition,” Gregg told Cherish Lombard.
Construction sequencing will be decided by the project team and that team is expected to be selected in March of 2020. Tolls will start when the project is complete, which is scheduled to be around the end of 2025.
This isn’t a “done deal,” but project officials say they’re optimistic things will continue moving forward.
Gregg said, “We have worked on this for 22 years. If we were to walk away now we would have generational economic impacts to the region. You will have traffic sitting in a standstill within 20 years; think about July 4th when you can’t get across the Bay. If this project stops, and it doesn’t come to fruition and we do not build this, we are looking at impacts that are much greater than we’re able to verbalize because transportation infrastructure is so vital to the life of a community.”
You can learn more about the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project here: