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State can build third bridge to Baldwin County Gulf Coast

The Alabama Department of Transportation won a major victory today when the Alabama Supreme Court certified its decision to lift an injunction on construction of a bridge to the  Gulf Coast.

“With Baldwin County Bridge Company’s request for a rehearing denied and the Supreme Court’s previous ruling in favor of ALDOT now finalized, ALDOT’s bridge contractor Scott Bridge Company has been directed to resume work immediately,” ALDOT said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for ALDOT’s effort to complete a toll-free bridge that will reduce traffic congestion to and from Alabama’s Gulf Coast beach communities.

“We are gratified that the Court ruled in our favor so we can get back to work on a project that is sorely needed.”

ALDOT recognized the necessity of a third bridge across the intracoastal waterway to the beaches in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores years ago. The beaches in Baldwin County are the No. 1 tourist destination in the state and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity for the state every year.

It takes about 4 1/2 hours, on a good day with minimal traffic and a minimum of breaks, for a family to drive from Birmingham to Gulf Shores and more than 6 hours from Huntsville.

ALDOT engineers have calculated that, after four or five hours of driving, it is taking another 25 to 45 minutes just to drive the last 10 miles needed to get over the bridges to the beaches, with the toll bridge being a particularly frustrating traffic snarl.

State figures show Alabamians and tourists from other states are now forgoing trips to the coast because of the traffic.

Another problem has been the ongoing legal dispute with Baldwin County Bridge Co., the owners of the toll bridge.

The state had asked the company to expand its bridge in Orange Beach to four lanes; but that never happened. The state then contracted with Scott Bridge to build a third bridge to lessen the traffic congestion on the two existing bridges – the other being on Alabama  59 in Gulf Shores.

Baldwin County Bridge sued claiming the state agreed a third bridge would not be built. A lower court found in favor of BCBC and issued an injunction on Scott Bridge and ALDOT to halt construction on the third bridge.

ALDOT then appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. Its subsequent decision reversing the trial court’s injunction against ALDOT allowed the project to resume. Friday’s ruling not to rehear the case means that work can proceed on the bridge.

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