One of the big mysteries regarding the new Mobile Bayway is how the Alabama Department of Transportation determine a toll and not federal money would be the best means of financing the badly needed thoroughfare’s construction.
Reportedly, at one time the federal component was as high as 50% of the bridge’s cost. Now it is much lower, perhaps less than 10% of the cost. That has a lot of local residents asking why a toll instead of federal money.
During an appearance on Mobile’s FM Talk 106.5 on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), elaborated on his earlier statements regarding his efforts to secure federal funding, which were met by state officials voicing their support for a toll bridge option.
“In a meeting we had a couple of years ago now in Montgomery with the state Department of Transportation officials, and that’s who makes all these decisions – not the feds – they said, ‘Look, we’ve decided we’re going to go this tolling route, and we don’t need the federal money,” Byrne said to “Midday Mobile” host Sean Sullivan. “We’re going to do it without the federal money.’ I thought, ‘Gee, I’ve been working really hard on getting this federal grant for y’all.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, that’s nice and all, but we’re going to meet the financial needs we have here by doing this toll.’ And that’s how we got into this discussion about how they could at buy down the amount that Alabamians would pay on the toll by using this GOMESA money. And they just haven’t been very receptive to that, to be honest with you.”
Byrne said there was still an outstanding an INFRA [Infrastructure for Rebuilding America] Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which he said the award would be based upon the quality of the application the federal government received from the state of Alabama.
“Frankly, I was surprised,” Byrne said. “But you know, you have to realize that I’m a federal official, not a state official. I can’t tell them what to do. Certainly, you know we’ve been driving the bus and trying to get all of these federal approvals out of the way, which we should have in three weeks and get it set-up for them, and also put them in touch with the right people at the federal Department of Transportation for how this is going to be financed because there is a way to do that through the U.S. Department of Transportation. I think they are actively pursuing that. But at the end of the day, you got to have money to pay that financing back, and they were clearly on this ‘we’re going to use tolls’ path, and didn’t seem that interested in trying to get this federal money, although they have made the application.”