2 years ago

Crossing Mobile Bay – a century-old problem for southwest Alabama

 

 

For well over a hundred years, southwest Alabamians have grappled with getting from Mobile across the Mobile Bay to Baldwin County and back, and that is a problem that predates the founding of the state.

If you have made that journey recently, you would know there are a number of ways to cross the bay. Most people use Interstate 10, which includes the Wallace Tunnel to get to a series of bridges known as the Bayway. Some use U.S. 90-98, which consists of the Bankhead Tunnel and the causeway built in 1926.

Another option is the Cochrane–Africatown USA Bridge, the designated truck route, to get to the Causeway or the Bayway via Prichard.

For those with a little more time, you opt to head north on Interstate 65 and cross the “Dolly Pardon Bridge,” then head back south to Spanish Fort. Finally, if you’re feeling up for a scenic excursion, you can head down to Dauphin Island and take a $16 ferry ride to Fort Morgan across the Mobile Bay.

Either way you go, the 400-plus square mile geographic water barrier is evident. And now in 2018, all those routes are inadequate for the area’s transit needs.

In the early days of automobile transportation in Alabama, the primary means to get from Mobile to Baldwin County’s Eastern Shore was by ferry. It was expensive, and that made Baldwin County isolated from Mobile.

From the 1925 Alabama State Highway Department Map

 

In 1927, the Cochrane Bridge, a vertical lift bridge, opened. It connected Mobile to the newly built Causeway, and ultimately ferry transit was no longer needed.

From the State Road Map of Alabama, Fall of 1928

Other east-west means of crossing the Mobile River opened in the decades to follow. The Bankhead Tunnel came in the 1940s, providing a more direct approach than the Cochrane Bridge to the Causeway from downtown Mobile.

From the 1942 Alabama Highway Department road map

In the 1970s, both I-10 and I-65 were completed, offering travelers those two routes from the north and east into the city.

From the Official 1977-78 Alabama Highway Map

The latest addition to crossing the Mobile Bay came in the early 1990s with the cable-stayed Africatown-Cochrane Bridge that replaced the above mentioned Cochrane vertical lift bridge.

Cochrane–Africatown USA Bridge, Mobile, Ala. / Wikipedia

Even with all these means to cross Mobile Bay, traffic is still an issue for the primary route, which is the Interstate 10 Bayway. At the time of the construction, the Eastern Shore cities of Spanish Fort, Daphne and Fairhope in Baldwin County weren’t expected to be the bedroom communities for Mobile that they are today.

Now in addition to the usual east-west traffic that is making the trek on I-10 to points anywhere from Jacksonville, Fla. to Los Angeles, Calif. you have commuters headed back and forth from home to work.

Tuesday in an appearance on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) hinted the latest iteration of the solution to crossing Mobile Bay could be part of President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan.

Byrne told host Sean Sullivan that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was familiar with the region’s need for a new crossing but was waiting to see if it would indeed be part of Trump’s plan.

“I can’t give you the precise particulars because we haven’t seen the president’s infrastructure plan,” he said. “But I think you’re going to see the president – we’ll be working with him and the Department of Transportation prioritizing our bridge project because it fits exactly in with what he’s trying to do.”

Given the state would have to offer up a portion of the financing for the bridge, a new I-10 bridge will likely include a toll, Byrne said.

“Yes, it will be [a toll bridge] because the state is trying to come up with its money and the state’s been very clear that they’re going to come up with their money by putting the toll on the bridge.”

If completed as a toll bridge, the new I-10 bridge would be Alabama’s most significant toll project by far.

There are already a few toll bridges in Alabama – bridges crossing the Alabama and Tallapoosa Rivers north of Montgomery, the Joe Mallisham Parkway near Tuscaloosa and the Foley Beach Expressway headed from mainland Baldwin County to Orange Beach.

A new toll I-10 bridge would easily dwarf these projects in size given the amount of traffic it would serve. The latest figures estimate at least 53,000 automobiles in both directions enter in and out of the western side of the Wallace Tunnel daily, and that is likely to increase.

Will this bridge be enough to last at least for the next 100 years?

Given the prior solutions have not lived up to long-term expectations (at least by highway standards in the United States), one has to ask if in the year 2050 the government will once again be seeking another solution.

Whatever the current solution is, it is long overdue. Accidents on I-10 headed in and out of the Wallace Tunnel are a daily occurrence that results in traffic backing up several miles.

Even though it wasn’t a big issue in the last U.S. Senate special election, making a new I-10 bridge priority is something voters in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, the second- and sixth-most populous counties respectively, could be swayed by in the upcoming gubernatorial election later this year.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

20 mins ago

Living Life On Purpose with Matt Wilson Episode 12: Interview with Chris and Sophie Corder

Many marriages go through difficult situations and end in disaster. Addiction, infidelity, anger and deception are just a few of the things that Chris and Sophie Corder walked through in theirs. However, through the grace of God, and His miraculous life-changing power, their marriage has been restored and strengthened. Now, they want to encourage other people through their triumph. They have turned pain into purpose and want to show how God can do anything if we will get out of the way and let Him.

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13 hours ago

Veteran helped by Alabama deputies could reconnect with son

JASPER, ALA. (AP) — A social media post about a veteran wearing an oxygen mask while walking down a road may help connect the man to his estranged son.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that the Gulf War veteran attempted to walk about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Walker County to Huntsville for an appointment Wednesday because his car wasn’t working.

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A Walker County deputy worked with other deputies to transport him to and from his appointment at the VA. News reports identify him as Gerald Baldwin.

The post has more than 150,000 shares. Baldwin’s son Lance in Pennsylvania saw the story and recognized his father. He told news outlets Sunday that the two hadn’t spoken in about five years. He now plans to reach out to his father.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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Editor’s note — The aforementioned Facebook post is as follows:

13 hours ago

Auburn’s famed golden eagle Nova possibly in early stages of heart failure

Auburn University’s widely known golden eagle Nova, War Eagle VII, could potentially be in the early stages of heart failure, according to university veterinarians and a press release issued last week.

“The 20-year-old male eagle received a biannual checkup in early October at the College of Veterinary Medicine followed by another echocardiogram Oct. 31.,” the statement stated. “In 2017 he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a chronic disease of the heart, and was sidelined from flying at football games to reduce stress.”

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“Nova’s condition has been medically managed and he has remained stable during the past two years, however, during his October exam, we observed decreased systolic function and enlarged vessels in his liver,” said Dr. Seth Oster, faculty avian veterinarian for the college’s Southeastern Raptor Center. “This could be an indication of the early stages of heart failure.”

Veterinarians also said they increased Nova’s dosage in a new round of treatments and that they will monitor how he responds.

“We will know more after we see how Nova responds to his latest rounds of treatment,” Oster said.

According to Andrew Hopkins, the assistant director of raptor training and education, Nova’s appearance at the Southeastern Raptor Center’s educational programs will be limited as veterans continue to monitor his progress.

The statement released on Nova’s health also provided background information on Nova.

It read, “Nova was hatched in 1999 at the Montgomery Zoo and was non-releasable due to human imprinting. He came to Auburn in 2000, made his first pre-game flight in 2004 and was designated War Eagle VII in 2006. He has helped promote wildlife conservation and awareness at almost 2,000 educational programs at the raptor center and at schools and conservation events around the Southeast. Raptor center staff conduct almost 300 presentations annually.”

Aurea, a 5-year-old female golden eagle, and Spirit, a 23-year-old female bald eagle, have both made pregame flights this season in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

13 hours ago

Final resting places for Alabama veterans

Like soldiers at attention, battalions of white markers stretch out across the fields in perfect formation.

Below them are soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. They are compatriots linked by more than common soil. Some died in service; many others survived the decades before finally falling to old age. All sacrificed.

Alabama has four cemeteries dedicated to the men and women who have worn American military uniforms. They are shrines and places of reflection to the people who fought at places like Chateau-Thierry, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Incheon, Saigon, Baghdad and Kabul.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs oversees Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo and Fort Mitchell National Cemetery near Phenix City. The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs manages cemeteries under the same VA regulations in Spanish Fort and Mobile, although the one in Mobile is at capacity and open only to surviving spouses.

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Burials and headstones at all the cemeteries are free for the veteran, spouse and dependent children. That includes in-ground casket or cremation burials or in a columbarium for urns containing cremated remains.

“Everything from the gate to the headstone is free. That saves a family anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 at a minimum,” said Todd Newkirk, assistant director at Fort Mitchell and interim director at Alabama National.

Newkirk, scanning the pristine grounds of Alabama National, believes there is a more plausible explanation why service members choose to call a veterans cemetery their final resting place.

“You are among your brothers and sisters at arms,” Newkirk said. “You are a veteran, and this is a place that honors veterans 24/7. And as long as there is a United States of America, this place is going to be taken care of. People are going to be here every day, all day, taking care of the cemetery.”

Reminders of sacrifice

Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Bourland was the first active-duty serviceman to be buried at Alabama National, which was dedicated in 2008. The Birmingham native, who flew helicopter missions in Iraq, died in February 2010 when the hotel where he was staying during a humanitarian mission in Haiti collapsed during an earthquake. Bourland was survived by his wife and two sons, then ages 3 and 1.

“Our daughter-in-law was the one that made the decision whether he would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery (near Washington, D.C.) or here,” said Bourland’s mother, Adrienne Bourland. “I am very glad she made the choice for him to come back to Alabama. It has allowed us be involved in the ceremonies and the activities.”

Adrienne Bourland and her husband live in St. Clair County and are members of a volunteer support staff that helps conduct special ceremonies at the cemetery on veterans and memorial holidays. Kenneth Bourland’s family has moved back to the Birmingham area from Florida, where they were living at the time of his death.

Alabama cemetery headstones, carved from Sylacauga marble, include a person’s name, rank, branch of service, date of birth and death, and a symbol of religion.

“The last two or three spaces are for an optional inscription that the next of kin is able to select,” Newkirk said. “They can put whatever they want on those lines as long as it is appropriate.”

‘I see America here’

Fort Mitchell National was established 31 years ago at the urging of U.S. Rep. Bill Nichols and state Sen. Joseph Smith of Phenix City, both of whom contended that Alabama deserved a national cemetery. Their argument was fortified by Fort Benning, Georgia, being just across the Chattahoochee River from Alabama.

“Joseph Smith was actually the first person buried here,” Newkirk said. “He actually died before it opened, and his wife had him disinterred (from another cemetery) and reinterred here.”

Alabama National and Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery were created in 2008 and 2012, respectively, to meet the burial needs of World War II and Korean War veterans.

All three cemeteries adjoin historical grounds. Alabama National is adjacent to American Village, an educational facility that contains replicas of historical structures. Fort Mitchell National Cemetery abuts a replica of the early American outpost and link to the Federal Road that opened Alabama to settlers. The Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery is near Fort Blakely, which was the site of the largest Civil War battle in Alabama.

Each cemetery conducts commemorative ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and many volunteers lay wreaths on the headstones at Christmas. Those ceremonies are generally conducted by support committees, veteran groups and Scouts.

Newkirk, however, said he can’t help but reflect on the sacrifices of those entombed every time he drives in the cemetery entrance.

“This is the best job I ever had in my life,” he said. “I did 21 years active duty in the Air Force and 15 years as a civilian in the Army, and so it is special to me. I see America here. I see my brother and sisters. It’s just an honor to be here.”

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

14 hours ago

Republican AL-02 candidate Jessica Taylor signs term limits pledge

Prattville’s Jessica Taylor, a conservative Republican candidate in Alabama’s Second Congressional District, in recent days announced she has signed the U.S. Term Limits Congressional Pledge.

In signing the pledge, Taylor committed — if elected — to cosponsoring and voting for the U.S. Term Limits amendment, which would enact limits of three terms maximum for U.S. House members and two terms maximum for U.S. senators.

In a statement, Taylor said, “We will never drain the swamp if we keep sending the same old career politicians to D.C. election after election.”

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“As a conservative, I am deeply frustrated by the out-of-control spending, backroom deals, and broken promises that are the status quo in Washington,” she concluded. “We need term limits to empower voters and return our government to citizen legislators who can bring fresh ideas and conservative reform to Washington. As your next congresswoman, I will go toe-to-toe with socialists like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and their liberal ‘squad’ to fight for our conservative Alabama values.”

Taylor is running in a crowded GOP primary to succeed U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02), who is not seeking reelection to a sixth term.

Other qualified candidates include Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman, former Alabama Attorney General Troy King and former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise).

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn