2 months ago

Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project: The cost of doing nothing is too high

For the past 25 years, serious efforts have been underway to design and eventually build a new bridge along Interstate 10 that runs through Mobile and Baldwin counties. Once completed, this bridge would relieve the growing congestion along this busy corridor that runs from Florida to California.

Building a bridge over a major shipping channel with an active waterfront, as is the case in downtown Mobile, was always going to be a challenge even when the price tag was projected to be $850 million. In recent months, the effort to consider a toll to help pay for this project – where the price tag has climbed to more than $2 billion – has only added to the challenge.

Most people agree a new bridge is necessary. However, the most significant obstacle has always been how to pay for it. As governor, I am committed to looking at all reasonable solutions to move this project forward.

In February, I told President Trump that I strongly support his major new infrastructure package. However, we all know that waiting on Washington to agree on anything isn’t a realistic option. Besides, if additional federal funding comes, there would be provisions to lower the toll which, based on the current proposal, would be about $2.25 per vehicle for those who use the bridge on a regular basis.

A little history…

Tolls have been used since the 1920s to connect Alabama’s coastal counties. The old Cochrane Bridge had a $1 per car toll. And in 1941, a toll plaza for the Bankhead Tunnel was installed when it opened, charging motorists 25 cents per car.

Almost one million vehicles traveled through the Bankhead Tunnel during its first year of use. This toll remained until the mid-1970s and would amount to $4.25 today if it had remained.

Thirty-two years later, when the Wallace Tunnel opened in 1973, the capacity was approximately 36,000 vehicles.

Today, almost 50 years later, the daily traffic count numbers are around 75,000 vehicles with holidays and summer traffic often seeing upwards of 100,000 vehicles per day.

Throw in a wreck or breakdown — there were 132 crashes from June 2018 to May 2019 during peak travel times — and it is not uncommon for drivers to have delays of 75 minutes or more.

One can only imagine how long the delays and backups will be when the daily traffic count is 100,000 in the not-too-distant future.

Fast forward to today…

One obvious reason for the congestion is the Wallace Tunnel and existing Bayway are only four-lanes wide. To meet our growing needs, the Bayway needs to become an eight-lane bridge. Because of anticipated growth of the metropolitan Mobile area, there will be added roadway congestion in this already-busy area. The plans to move Mobile Regional Airport to the Brookley Aeroplex is just one example of an already crowded area becoming even more so in years to come.

Additionally, we have been told that the existing Bayway, which was is over 40 years old, cannot be widened without being raised, requiring a new structure if we are going to use the Federal dollars we are seeking.

Since Hurricanes Ivan in 2004 and Katrina in 2005 washed away numerous roads and bridges, including some along I-10, new bridges along coastal regions are now required to meet a 100-year storm surge level.

Another key factor that has added to the cost – perhaps one of the most important – is the required height of a new Mobile River Bridge. As you know, the State recently committed $100 million over the next decade to improving the Port of Alabama which has a $22 billion annual economic impact on our state.

And by working closely with Senator Shelby and the rest of the Alabama Congressional Delegation, efforts are already underway to ensure our port has an even greater impact in the future by being able to take the biggest cargo ships in the world.

Planning for this growth – both cargo ships and even larger cruise ships – requires the bridge to be raised from its original design of 190 feet to 215 feet. We must position our state for the next 50 to 100 years as a world leader in trade and commerce.

Some new Federal dollars are on the way

Last month, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and our federal delegation announced that Alabama was selected for a $125 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant to help finance the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project.

While we are grateful for this grant, it represents just 6% of the total estimated cost.

Finding the money to pay for this project – the biggest infrastructure project in our state’s history – was never going to be easy. Be assured, we will continue to look to Washington for additional help that can make this project a reality.

“No Toll or No Bridge”

In recent weeks, some in the “No Toll or No Bridge” camp have suggested we ought to just “slow this down” and wait until after the next presidential election.

Slowing down a project that is almost a quarter-century old seems unwise. The cost of doing nothing is too high and no one is suggesting it will get any cheaper if we just wait.

Like others, I am sensitive to those legitimate concerns of what a toll would do to working families, lower and middle-class citizens, small businesses, students and the elderly.

However, there are also countless individuals who would like the option of choosing a safer, less congested route across the Mobile River and Bay – even if it means that route will come with a toll. Keep in mind, there will always be “toll-free” options for anyone who wants or needs to cross Mobile Bay for free.

To those who say the bridge can be built without a toll, I simply ask you to show us how.

To that end, I am inviting all who have different suggestions to build the bridge to a meeting that will be held on October 7 in Montgomery. Elected leaders from local, state and federal office will be given an opportunity to show us their plan and the meeting will be open to the public.

This project is too important for us to be paralyzed by misinformation and inaction. I hope we can prove that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

Kay Ivey is the 54th governor of Alabama.

7 hours ago

Roby: U.S. service academies nomination deadline is quickly approaching

It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through the month of October. November will be here before we know it, and with it comes Veterans Day. This is a uniquely special holiday, and as it approaches, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the endless sacrifices made by those who have worn the uniform.

It is a tremendous honor to serve the Second District, which is home to two of our nation’s finest military installations, thousands of active duty and reserve personnel, and a large veteran population. Working on behalf of our service members and veterans has always been a top priority of mine in Congress, and it continues to be one of the most rewarding parts of my job. With Veterans Day on the horizon, I am personally reminded of the great debt of gratitude we owe the men and women of our military.

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As this important holiday nears, I believe now is an appropriate time to remind high school seniors in the Second District that the deadline to apply for nomination to the United States service academies through my office is less than one month away on November 8 at 5:00 p.m. Central Time. If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing this fantastic opportunity, please remember to submit all necessary materials to my Montgomery office by the deadline.

As a member of Congress, one of my distinct privileges each year is to nominate candidates for appointment to four of the five service academies: The United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy. The fifth service academy, the United States Coast Guard Academy, does not require a congressional nomination for appointment.

I can nominate up to 10 individuals for each vacant slot allotted to the Second District. If you are pursuing entry to one of our nation’s distinguished service academies and endeavor to serve our country, I would like to offer my sincere gratitude and wish you the very best. It is because of our veterans, active-duty personnel and young leaders with hearts for serving this nation that we enjoy our uniquely American freedoms.

In the spirit of the upcoming Veterans Day holiday, I offer my sincerest thanks to all who have served our country in uniform. It is an honor to represent you in Congress, and I hope you will call on me if I can ever be of assistance to you. If you are a high school senior in the Second District and are interested in learning more about obtaining a nomination to the service academies from my office, please contact my staff in Montgomery by calling (334) 262-7718. Additional application information is also available on my website: www.roby.house.gov/student-resources/service-academy-nominations.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

8 hours ago

Tide continues to top AP poll, Auburn No. 11

The Associated Press released their weekly college football poll on Sunday, with the Crimson Tide holding on to the top ranking after a 48-27 win at Texas A&M and Auburn moving up one spot following a bye-week.

Alabama (6-0) received 1,503 total points and 30 first-place votes, while LSU (6-0) moved up to number two with 1,449 points and 12 first-place votes after beating Florida.

Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma rounded out the top five, followed by Wisconsin, Penn State, Notre Dame and Florida.

Georgia fell from third to number ten after a stunning home loss to unranked South Carolina. The top seven teams are all undefeated.

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LSU and Bama will play in Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9.

One conference has held both the top two spots 75 times since the AP poll started in 1936, none more than the SEC. Incredibly, this is the 27th time the SEC has simultaneously had the numbers one and two teams in the rankings since 2000. Ten of those times have involved the Tide and LSU Tigers at the same time.

RELATED: Return of ‘rat poison’: Saban warns players about listening to buzz about draft stock, records

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

9 hours ago

VIDEO: Almost everyone wants impeachment, Sen. Doug Jones feels the pressure, Alabama Democrats’ chaos continues and more on Guerrilla Politics

Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Can President Donald Trump and other Republicans force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) hand on impeachment?

— What happens if U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) votes for President Trump’s impeachment?

— Will Alabama Democrats ever end their infighting and unite as a party?

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Jackson and Burke are joined by Lt. General Jim Link (U.S. Army – Retired) to discuss foreign policy matters in Syria and Hong Kong.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” where he talks about how the NBA’s hypocrisy on Hong Kong will undermine all their social justice preening they do on American political issues.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

10 hours ago

Rain barrels helping Alabama city combat flooding

Patsy Stallworth loves her rain barrels.

“I didn’t understand it at first, but after my husband explained it to me, I like it.”

Stallworth has two 55-gallon rain barrels installed at her home in the Mobile suburb of Prichard, catching up to 110 gallons of rainwater for her to use to water her flowers, wash her cars and wash the dirt off the house.

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“I was amazed at how it worked,” Stallworth said. “When it rains it fills up really quickly. This is a new adventure for me.”

Rain barrels helping alleviate flooding issues in Prichard from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The rain barrels were installed at Stallworth’s home, free-of-charge, thanks to a stormwater mitigation program organized by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. Christian Miller, Watershed Management Coordinator for the Mobile Bay NEP, said the rain barrels are a big help in reducing flooding in Prichard, which is part of the Three Mile Creek Watershed.

“We’ve had a lot of issues with residential street flooding and some issues with sanitary sewer runovers, so some of the ways to combat this are to put in these rain-catchment devices,” Miller said. “These two 55-gallon drums aren’t going to solve all of our problems, but as we get more of these out it will hopefully help to reduce these localized issues with residential flooding.”

An inch of rain falling on a typical 1,000-square-foot roof yields more than 600 gallons of water which, in urban areas like Prichard, ends up washing down streets and other hard surfaces, picking up and carrying pollutants into waterways. Miller said increased rainwater harvesting will help reduce impacts associated with residential stormwater runoff.

“The residents have been the biggest champions,” Miller said. “Once we get them in and see what utility they have, they go around and tell their neighbors, the neighbors come to see them and we get phone calls at the office. People really like them and want to have them installed at their house.”

Miller said dozens of rain barrels have been installed in Prichard thanks to donations of materials and labor, including 98 barrels at 46 homes installed by volunteers from Alabama Power Service Organization.

“We’ve got a really good partnership with several different entities,” Miller said. “Greif Packaging and Soterra LLC have donated the barrels and Alabama Power has been really helpful providing supplies and labor to help install. With those folks and Mobile Bay NEP, we’ve really had a good combined effort to put all of these rain barrels out around the community.”

To learn more about the rain barrel program, visit mobilebaynep.com or call the Mobile Bay NEP at 251-431-6409.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Return of ‘rat poison’: Saban warns players about listening to buzz about draft stock, records

Two years ago in College Station, Texas, one of University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban’s most famous lines was born.

After a 27-19 victory at Texas A&M, one in which the Tide led 24-3 and did not close to Saban’s liking, he lamented that positive media headlines about the team were “rat poison” to the players.

It must be something about the Aggies — or maybe it’s just this time of the season — but Saban brought the phrase back after Saturday’s 47-28 win on Saturday.

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Speaking to reporters post-game, Saban was asked about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa becoming the school’s career passing touchdowns leader, moving ahead of A.J. McCarron with four touchdown tosses for the top-ranked Tide against No. 24 TAMU.

Saban gave a hat tip to how Tagovailoa handles himself before pivoting to talking about what really is important.

“Well, it means [Tagovailoa] had a great career to this point and we certainly appreciate his competitive spirit, the way he prepares for games, his leadership, the way he practices, his ability to help us score points on offense,” Saban answered. “He’s very instinctive, so it means a lot from that standpoint, but it also doesn’t mean much when it comes to, ‘What are you going to do in the future?’ And I think he has an opportunity, based on the type of offensive team we have, to have great production if he can continue to just stay focused on what we want to do.”

The legendary coach then referenced the genesis of the “rat poison” line two years ago in the same location, before explaining how it is relevant today.

“I mean, this is where — this very seat is where ‘rat poison’ was born,” Saban continued. “So I remember that two years ago, all right? And when I hear things in the media about whether guys are first-round draft picks or they’re setting great records and all that type of thing, that’s not really what I like for players to be focusing on right now.”

He emphasized, “You’ve got to focus on what are you doing right now, not what’s going to happen in the future, not really what happened in the past, but, ‘What can I learn from what’s happened in the past? How can I affect what’s going on right now?’ Because that’s what’s going to affect the future in a positive way. So, that’s how we want our players to think regardless of how difficult y’all make it for us sometimes with some of our players.”

RELATED: Yellowhammer Power Poll after college football week seven

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