MOBILE, Ala. — In our on-the-street survey, opinions about a $3 to $6 toll on the proposed Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project are split among local people and tourists.
Some said they wouldn’t mind paying a toll if they can avoid the gridlock that happens often on the I-10 Bayway, the George Wallace Tunnel, and in downtown Mobile as drivers try to find an easier way to cross the bay.
But there is clear opposition to the toll, from a Facebook group created by state auditor Jim Zeigler to a radio campaign by the Common Sense Campaign.
In the radio ad, Common Sense President Dr. Lou Campomenosi is heard saying, “We have one question, who will profit from the mobile river bridge project?”
Campomenosi told News 5, “We’re in the position here of defending the people against a really ridiculous toll given what’s going on the rest of the state — no tolls in Birmingham, no tolls in Huntsville.”
Because of some of this pushback, there is a chance the project could go away altogether. That’s according to someone who has worked on the project almost since its inception, State Senator Chris Elliott.
“And this is what they’ve come up with and the next question is going to be how do we go forward from here and is it acceptable — and again if it’s not acceptable, no build is still an option,” Elliott said.
But Campomenosi says with the consortiums bidding on the project, there’s too much money and political power at play to stop it.
News 5’s Bill Riales talked with Camponmenosi. “You think they’re going to railroad it (the project) through?”
“I think there are enough people who want this,” he said.
That’s because of some simple math. For the $2.1 billion investment in building the project, with tolls, the return on investment would be tremendous over a 50-year period.
“You’re talking about just shy of 10 billion,” says Senator Elliott. “Well, that’s entirely too much profit if that’s what we’re looking at.”
Elliott says he would recommend against the project if the proposals from the bidding companies continue to recommend tolls in the $3 to $6 range proposed by the Alabama Department of Transportation. Those proposals are expected in the coming months, according to Elliott.