State Sen. Whatley: I’m glad people in Mobile, Baldwin Counties have brought ALDOT shortcomings ‘to the forefront’
Although he represents a district that is more than 200 miles from the site of the proposed $2.1 billion new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge that is at the center of controversy because of the possibility of the use of tolling as a means of financing, State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) said he is grateful for it.
Whatley, whose District 27 includes portions of Lee, Russell and Tallapoosa Counties, said the toll bridge issue was drawing attention to the shortcomings of the Alabama Department of Transportation, particularly when it comes to priorities and public safety.
“I think it’s great that the people in the Mobile and Baldwin [County] area are bringing this issue to the top of the service and talking about it,” Whatley said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “Because I’ve got an issue over here – I’ve got people dying on I-85 – having wrecks, getting rear-ended by truckers… it’s too congested.”
Whatley pointed to a rest area renovation near his district on Interstate 85, which is a $24 million bathroom renovation.
“I’ve got a project now that’s going on that’s been approved and let, to increase the bathroom size at the interstate exit in Chambers County at the rest area,” he continued. “I would much rather spend $24 million repaving I-85, widening the roads, correcting the bridges that need redoing and making the interstate exit-entrance ramps more safe than spending $24 million on bathroom renovations.”
He said he has raised that point, both to agency director John Cooper and as a member of the legislature’s joint transportation committee.
“Now, I’ve made that point to the joint transportation committee,” Whatley said. “I’ve made that point to the director of transportation. And I’m glad that people in Mobile and Baldwin are bringing these issues to the forefront, whether they’re for or against the toll and I’m hoping that people here and the governor will also look at East Alabama and what we’ve got going on over here and put the money where it is most needed to save lives, not where people can use the restroom.”
Whatley offered a few suggestions, which included the widening of Interstate 85, which serves as a thoroughfare from Montgomery to Atlanta and safety improvements to the cloverleaf intersections along the route as well.
“My idea is to have a six-lane I-85 but also we’ve got several interstate exits that are cloverleafed and very dangerous,” he said. “I’ve done some videos of them with me standing out on the interstate and showing you how hard it is for people to enter and exit from the interstate at those exchanges. That’s where wrecks will happen and the Department of Transportation will tell you that. It’s not that they’re saying it’s not important but they’re spending the money elsewhere.”
“I’m on the joint transportation committee and I’m going to do my best to find those answers out,” Whatley added.