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Ivey calls public meeting on proposed Mobile Bay Bridge toll — ‘Many legitimate questions have been raised and deserve answers’

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday sent a letter to the members of the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority to call a public meeting for Tuesday, September 17 regarding the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project.

This comes amid a social media and press firestorm about the project’s proposed use of a toll for partial funding of the approximately $2.1 billion estimated price tag.

In the letter, Ivey wrote, “In recent weeks, there has been significant feedback regarding this proposal in the press and social media. Many legitimate questions have been raised and deserve answers.”

“Unfortunately, a few urban myths have also been spread which are simply not true,” she added.

The project includes a new cable-stay bridge over Mobile River, replacement of the existing I-10 Bayway Bridge and modifications to multiple interchanges across I-10. Ultimately, the new Bayway will provide eight lanes of travel across the Mobile Bay. The new Mobile River Bridge will have more than 215 feet of vertical clearance to carry I-10 across the Mobile Channel, permitting all types of maritime traffic in the Port of Mobile. The Federal Highway Administration regulations state that the Bayway needs to be raised above the 100-year storm surge level. Since the existing bridge cannot be raised, it must be replaced with a new structure. Given this change, the cost of the project increased from $850 million to the approximate $2.1 billion total.

The project was recently awarded a $125 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant by the Trump administration. However, in the letter, she noted this was only about six percent of the project’s estimated cost, which could always rise during the construction process. Ivey also said that the state does not anticipate more “significant” federal funding for the project “for the foreseeable future,” despite a federal infrastructure package clearing a Senate committee this week.

Alabama’s federal delegation is invited to the upcoming public meeting.

“I am sensitive to concerns of what a toll would do to working families, lower and middle-class individuals, small businesses and students and the elderly, as I am sure you are,” Ivey wrote to the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority members. “I am also concerned about the cost of doing nothing which is what some of the opponents to a toll are suggesting.”

She explained that the purpose of the public meeting on September 17 will be “to receive an update from ALDOT, to hear from other stakeholders who may wish to propose viable options for financing the project, and to consider any other business that may properly come before the Authority.”

Ivey further noted that she looks forward to hearing of “constructive alternatives and solutions.”

Concluding the letter, she seemed to take a shot at State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who is leading a grassroots social media effort against the proposed toll, and perhaps even some members of the Coastal Alabama state legislative delegation, too.

“I will also be inviting… all other state and constitutional officers, at least some who seem to believe there is an easy solution out there if we would just look for it,” Ivey concluded. “In the end, I remain hopeful we can work together to find a way to move this project forward.”

Earlier on Friday, Ivey during a press gaggle in Prattville said this embrace of a seemingly fictional “easy solution” extended to certain individuals running for other offices right now, too. She said some of these individuals were complicit in generating rumors and “misinformation” about the project.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn