State Sen. Elliott to critics of anti-tollers in rest of state arguing ‘no toll, no bridge’: ‘Fine. Take a step back. Hit the pause button’
One critique of those in Alabama outside the southwestern portion opposing the proposed toll for the Interstate 10 Mobile Bayway Bridge has been that residents using the bridge, which would be primarily those of Mobile and Baldwin Counties, want the bridge, but they do not want to pay for it.
That sentiment has been echoed by lawmakers in other parts of Alabama asking when they might see their $2.1 billion project, which is the cost of the current new bridge with the proposed toll of $6 each way.
During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Tuesday, State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) countered those critics by noting the amount of gas tax revenue generated by his region of the state and said for some, they are getting hit in the pocketbook by several multiples more than those in other parts of the state.
“We pay the same, and in some cases, a lot more gas tax, when you look at the total amount than a lot of folks in the rest of the state does,” Elliott said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “But we deserve our share of it, too. Now whether or not that pays for a bridge of this magnitude or a project of this magnitude is a different issue altogether. But when you start taxing and tolling the existing infrastructure, when you take the gas tax that was just passed and multiply it by four to get what the rate would be even with the proposed ALDOT frequent user discount, imagine how my constituents feel – that they’ve been taxed and taxed again with the gas tax. And now we’re going to charge them a total of four times as much to go back and forth to work as we do anybody else in the state. That’s why it leaves such a bad taste in our mouth.”
Elliott also responded to the claim of wanting a bridge but not paying for it. According to the Baldwin County Republican, his constituents would opt for no bridge under the current plan versus a bridge under that plan.
“The cost is driving the toll,” he said. “The cost is driven by design parameters that I think are likely excessive. There was never a budget for this project going into it. From ALDOT’s standpoint, it was always – and John Cooper said this a number of times – we are going to get this project to the point where the only problem is money. Well, guess what? We’re there. And along the way, we accepted any design parameter than anybody could come up with to remove any opposition to this project. The problem is, those chickens have come home to roost. And the 2.1 billion of them have come home to roost. And we’ve got a big problem with that.”
“We need to scale it back if we’re going to do it at all,” he continued. “And to your folks who say you don’t want to pay for your bridge – it’s either you don’t get a bridge if you don’t have a toll – I think you’ll see a resounding message from South Alabama folks saying, ‘Fine. Take a step back. Hit the pause button. Let’s look at this some other way.’ But there is no question that my constituents, my fellow legislators, county commissioners, mayors down here – we’re fine with that. Thank you very much. We don’t want the bridge that is being proposed by the administration right now at all.”