Mobile, Ala. (WKRG)– If you live along the Gulf Coast, by now you’ve heard the Alabama Department of Transportation is pressing ahead with plans to build a new Mobile River Bridge and replace the I-10 Bayway. The agency is calling for tolls to pay for it. There has been some misinformation circulating, mostly on social media, about the project. ALDOT sent out an email earlier this week to try to set to record straight about what they are proposing. It did little to quiet the growing opposition over the $6 tolls they are proposing.
In a presentation on July 17th, ALDOT and its Director John Cooper confirmed plans for the project and a toll. ALDOT wants to build a new bridge over the Mobile River that would help ease traffic through the Wallace and Bankhead Tunnels. The Wallace Tunnel would also be subjected to the same $6 toll. Included in the plan, the agency wants to replace the I-10 Bayway with a new six-lane, raised Bayway across Mobile Bay to the Eastern Shore. The total cost of the project; $2.1 B. In a briefing to protestors who showed up to the media briefing, Director Cooper stated the reason he thinks the project is needed.
“If we fail to rebuild and expand that corridor I believe we would cast this area into gridlock,” he said.
ALDOT is also proposing a $90 per month pass for frequent users that would be good for 40 trips per month across the bay and bridge. Cooper said that fee would effectively lower the price of tolls for frequent users. But there remains opposition to that plan as well.
“So here we are trying to say ‘hey, let’s stop this for a little while and find out what we can do to find alternative funding. And that doesn’t seem to be on the agenda,” said Dr. Lou Campomenosi. He is the president of the Common Sense Campaign in Mobile and just one of the voices pushing back against the project with a radio and social media campaign. State Auditor Jim Zigler is another voice. He has gathered tens of thousands who are voicing their opposition on Facebook.
ALDOT is on the record saying if there are no tolls, there will be no project. Those against tolling say the project needs to be slowed and the impact of the tolls needs to be studied.
“I’m still requesting an economic study on the toll costs for small business in Mobile and Baldwin County and lower and middle-class families,” one protestor told Cooper at the July 17th meeting.
ALDOT has said the tolling rate is not a done deal. In July, the agency was awarded a $125m Infra-grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, the agency says that would not help lower the toll rate and represents only about 7 percent of the total cost of the project.