Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl: Existing I-10 Wallace Tunnel to be tolled ‘immediately’ upon the start of construction of proposed Mobile Bay Bridge
The details of the seemingly unpopular tolling aspect of the proposed new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge have been limited. One verified detail is that in addition to the new bridge, the proposed $3-6 toll would also apply to the existing twin-span Wallace Tunnel completed in 1973.
However, the tolling of the Wallace Tunnel could come long before the new bridge is opened to traffic. In fact, the toll could come as soon as the ground is broken for the new bridge according to Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl.
Carl, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Alabama’s first congressional district open U.S. House of Representatives seat to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), told Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 that was made clear to him in meetings with officials from the Alabama Department of Transportation.
Carl told “Midday Mobile” host Sean Sullivan his original understanding of the project was that the existing Wallace Tunnel would not be tolled.
“Never, and I sat on the council that helped pick the engineering firm that took it over,” he said. “Never ever was the Wallace Tunnel brought up. We all assumed that it was being left alone. It wasn’t until the meeting in Spanish Fort two months ago, maybe three months ago – I’m losing track of time – that I found out about it. I backed off then. I said, ‘No, I can’t support. I will not support it.’ Because I always viewed that as the alternative route for the locals.”
“We were sold on the bridge project based on tourism traffic and trucking traffic,” he said. “Now what we’re learning is it is going to be based on the locals back. It’s going to be you and I paying for it. And I can go into the problems with that, but as a county commissioner, it’s positive in some ways and it’s negative in a lot. As your next congressman, I promise you it is a problem. It is a huge problem.”
The Mobile County Republican lamented the lack of federal money for the project and noted that by virtue of being part of the Interstate Highway System, the bridge could be used for federal purposes.
“That is a federal highway,” he added. “That highway was designed to take traffic from Jacksonville, Fla. to Los Angeles, Calif. Troops, if we move troops, they’ve got to cross that river. They’ve got to go through that tunnel or over that bridge. So why is not the federal government more involved?”
Carl was asked by Sullivan about the timeframe for implementing the toll, to which Carl said officials told him immediately and long before the opening of the new completed bridge project.
“Immediately, so I am told,” Carl said. “They will start tolling it immediately [upon breaking ground of the bridge]. I was told at that meeting it would be immediately.”
“Let’s say it takes eight years on the project,” he said. “That will be eight years they’ll charge on the tunnel.”
Later in the appearance, Carl reiterated that the toll would come “immediately.”
“Immediately is what I was told by the engineering firm,” Carl said.
“I think their PR on this has just been horrible,” he added.