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Mobile, Eastern Shore MPOs offer framework for new I-10 Mobile Bay bridge — Toll ‘not to exceed $2.50’ on the table

The on-again, off-again saga of a new proposed Interstate 10 Mobile Bay Bridge and Bayway got new life on Wednesday as the chairmen from both the Mobile and Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) offered the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) a framework for a new bridge and bayway.

Without the approval of the MPO, the I-10 project is at risk of losing $125 million in federal funding, according to a joint news release from the Mobile and Eastern Shore MPOs.

“Loss of federal funding would make completion of the project in the future more difficult and expensive to local citizens,” the release said.

Also, according to the release, this new required framework would enable the entire project to be built within five years instead of the proposed 25 years under an earlier proposal.

“This framework is a major step that allows us to move forward with a long-term solution,” Eastern Shore MPO chair Fairhope City Councilman Jack Burrell said. “I’m pleased that we will be able to ensure toll-free routes and cut toll rates by more than half from a previous proposal. Ultimately, any final project will need to work for the citizens of Baldwin County, and the Eastern Shore MPO will work to make sure that it does. At this point, doing nothing is not an option we can even consider.”

“I believe this framework is our best chance to move forward with a new Mobile River Bridge and Bayway,” Mobile MPO chairman Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “It could be a long time before we have another chance like this to build a new bridge and Bayway, and ultimately all parties involved will have to come together on a path forward very soon. Solving our region’s traffic problems is critical to our long-term success, and we can’t afford to miss this opportunity.”

A toll is still on the table, but according to the joint statement, it would not exceed $2.50.

Framework as follows:

“First, we believe a long-term, comprehensive solution should happen now instead of a piecemeal, phased-in approach that will take 25 years to complete. The traffic congestion in our area will only get worse if we wait or do nothing.

Second, we believe both the state and federal governments should contribute significant funding to any solution. In addition, we expect the state to contribute at least $250 million to this project, which would make it one of the largest state projects ever. We expect $125 million in federal funds will be completely expended on this project, and we expect all efforts will be made to maximize additional federal funding.

Third, any final plan must include no-toll options for passenger vehicles. We dislike tolls and strongly prefer that the project be built without them, but existing funding sources are not sufficient to build the comprehensive solution our area needs. Our citizens must always have a choice to use free, no-toll options.

Fourth, any toll considered should not exceed $2.50 for passenger vehicles. Tolls should only be levied on new infrastructure and toll revenue must pay down project debt. Tolling should end when original debt is paid, and any new federal or state funding should be used to pay down project debt in order to reduce tolling cost or duration. Revenue from this project should be used to pay for this project, not for other purposes.

Fifth, this must be a publicly owned project. No foreign or domestic corporation should own the infrastructure. Within these parameters, we support:

  • A comprehensive solution that includes a new, six-lane Mobile River bridge, a new Bayway built to current safety and longevity standards, and appropriate interchanges in Baldwin and Mobile Counties that can be completed in five years.
  • No-toll options for passenger vehicles crossing Mobile Bay with the causeway, the Wallace Tunnel, the Bankhead Tunnel, and the Africatown Bridge, at a minimum, remaining toll-free.
  • Opportunities for citizens to provide input before the project moves forward.
  • Any passenger vehicle should be allowed to use all new infrastructure for a charge of $2.50 or less rather than use the toll-free options if they choose.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

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