MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey says the I-10 Bridge and Bayway project is dead.
Wednesday night she abruptly canceled October’s Alabama Toll Road, Bridge, and Tunnel Authority meeting to discuss the project and toll. Ivey’s move was in response to a vote late Wednesday afternoon by the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization to withdraw its support of the project.
“Without a project, there is no need for a meeting on October 7. I am thereby canceling the Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority meeting,” Ivey said in a statement.
The Eastern Shore MPO, made up mostly of mayors and council members from Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, and Loxley, voted eight to one against the toll bridge. Only ALDOT’s representative on the board supported the idea.
Due to congestion in the George Wallace Tunnel and on the I-10 Bayway, engineers and politicians have been studying for the last two decades the need for a new bridge over the Mobile River. Only recently did Gov. Ivey announce that the $2.1 million project would receive only token federal funding and would be financed by a private toll vendor and paid for primarily by a six-dollar user toll.
Public backlash to the toll resulted in the Mobile County Metropolitan Planning Organization voting August 21 to wait until after the State Toll Authority meeting before adding the project to its Transportation Infrastructure Plan (TIP). The Eastern Shore MPO voted Wednesday to keep the project out of its TIP. Inclusion in the TIPs of both MPO’s is required under federal highway law to move the project along.
“Predominantly what we heard was an overwhelming ‘no’ to the tolls even if that means no bridge,” explained Eastern Shore MPO Vice Chairman and Fairhope City Councilman Jack Burrell. “What I believe you saw was the elected officials in Baldwin County that responded to their citizens and voted no, under any circumstances. And what we hope that it will do is get Montgomery’s attention, get them back to the drawing board, get them to reconsider how they could redesign the bridge.”
Numerous citizens spoke at Wednesday’s ESMPO meeting in Fairhope against the plan.
“Do not attempt to close a free road and make it a toll road,” said former State Senator Trip Pittman of Montrose.
“I am in favor of finding a way to pay for the bridge without a toll,” added Baldwin County resident Karen Wilson. “I am in favor of seeking federal funding.”
State Auditor Jim Zeigler has led the no toll effort and the fight against the Governor and her plan. He addressed the MPO Wednesday.
“There’s an old southern saying ‘if you’ve got a stubborn old mule, sometimes to get its attention, to get it to listen, you got to hit it over the head with a two-by-four.’ You have a two-by-four in your hands,” he told the board.