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Shelby announces $125 million grant for I-10 Mobile River Bridge project

Monday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded two Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grants to fund projects for infrastructure improvements in Alabama.

The largest of the two DOT INFRA grants contains $125 million for the Alabama Department of Transportation to assist in the construction of the I-10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project. This is one of the largest competitive federal grants awarded to the state of Alabama. The second DOT INFRA grants for Alabama has been awarded to the City of Tuscaloosa in the amount of $6.87 million to replace an overpass bridge located on University Boulevard and U.S. Highway 82.

“I am proud to announce that Alabama is receiving two major INFRA grants to assist in construction and completion of important infrastructure projects in Mobile and Tuscaloosa,” said Senator Shelby. “Both of these projects will help improve safety, alleviate traffic congestion and concerns with overcapacity, and promote increased economic development opportunities across the state. Investing in essential infrastructure in Alabama and across the country promotes a more prosperous future for our nation. I thank Secretary Chao for her attention to these projects and look forward to continuing my work to ensure that our state is well represented in any effort to fund federal transportation priorities.”

The INFRA grant for the Mobile River Bridge project will provide $125 million for efforts to assist in the design and construction of a cable-stayed bridge and additional roadway on I-10.

“This is outstanding news for the people of Southwest Alabama! Fighting for federal funding for this bridge has been one of my top priorities in Congress, and I am glad the Trump Administration has come through with this grant award,” Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said. “I am very appreciative of the help from our entire Alabama congressional delegation, especially Senator Richard Shelby.”

ALDOT estimates that the full cost of the bridge and bayway replacement at a staggering $2.1 billion. The $125 million grant would only be 5.95 percent of the total money needed for the bridge, the largest cable-stayed bridge ever built on this continent.

Over 35,000 South Alabamians have joined a Facebook group opposing ALDOT’s controversial plan to turn I-10 between Mobile and Baldwin Counties into a toll road.

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“Today is a positive step toward making this project a reality, but our work is not over,” Congressman Byrne said. “The current tolling proposal for this project is unacceptable, and I will continue leading the fight against tolling and working to ensure this project helps – not hurts – the people of South Alabama.”

Opponents of tolling the Mobile River Bridge argue that it will have a devastating effect on residents of the Mobile area, many of whom are of very modest means. The median household income in Mobile is only $46,023. An estimated 78,300 people in Mobile County lives below the federal poverty line. The federal poverty line is $25,465 for a family of four with two children, and $17,308 for a single parent of one child. Toll opponents say that $90 a month in extra bills to get back and forth to work or to apply for work would be devastating to these families.

Some toll opponents are saying that it would be better to have no bridge than to have a toll bridge. ALDOT would also allow the conglomerate building the bridge to toll the existing Wallace Tunnels that go under the Mobile River.

The $6.87 million INFRA grant to Tuscaloosa will allow for the replacement of aging infrastructure and provide critical vehicular and pedestrian access improvements.

INFRA grants program were established by DOT in 2017 to advance the Trump Administration’s principles and goals of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. Further, the INFRA program works to increase the total investment in infrastructure improvements by state, local, and private partners.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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