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Baldwin County Democrats oppose Mobile River toll bridge

The Baldwin County Democratic Party released a statement Wednesday announcing that they are opposed to the proposed tolls on the I-10 bridge and Bayway. The Baldwin County Democratic Party said the tolls are an unjust tax on the working people of Southwest Alabama.

The group said in a statement:

“The Baldwin County Democratic Party is opposed to the current proposal by ALDOT of a $6.00 one-way toll for a new I-10 bridge and Bayway,” the Baldwin County Democrats stated. “The toll cost is an unjust tax on the working people and small business owners on both sides of Mobile Bay who commute daily to earn a living. Even with the proposed frequent user discount, this toll will have a severe, negative impact on household budgets and will hurt small businesses trying to compete with larger industry peers. While we understand the significant need to improve our infrastructure, we believe the cost outweighs the benefits for Baldwin County residents.”

The growing opposition to the Alabama Department of Transportation plan to replace the Mobile Bayway and build a massive bridge over the Mobile River has united people from across the political, economic and racial lines like nothing in recent memory. The Baldwin County Democratic Party and Tea Party both actively oppose the toll bridge plan and cite similar concerns.

“This toll is ridiculous and is a slap in the face of the working families of South Alabama especially after the passage on the gas tax that is supposed to be used for roads and bridges,” said State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, in a statement.

“I’ll continue calling for ALDOT to look at alternative funding for the bridge that does not include a toll on locals and urge Democrats to resume infrastructure talks with President Trump,” said State Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, on social media.

“I didn’t trust the administration to do the right thing and I didn’t want to give them a blank check to make the toll whatever price they wanted,” Bracy said. “ALDOT told us that the toll would be on the on the lower end between $3-$6 and the monthly pass would be between $30 to $40 however, this week they announced $6 one way and $90 monthly. Before ALDOT’s announcement the Mobile County Legislative Delegation sent a letter to the Governor asking her not to put this unfair burden on our citizens. This was also snubbed by the administration.”

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Both Bracy and Pringle signed the letter from all the local legislators urging the governor not to push forward with the toll plan.

Now, 52,657 citizens have joined a Facebook group managed by State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) opposing the toll bridge plan.

The ALDOT plan will cost an estimated $2.1 billion and take over five years to complete. Motorists will be paying the tolls for the next 55 years for use of both the new bridge and for the existing Wallace Tunnels. Frequent uses of the toll bridge can get a prepaid $90 a month pass for unlimited use. The Bankhead Tunnel, the Causeway by the battleship and the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge will remain free for motorists unable or unwilling to pay the $6 one way toll.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey insists that the costly I-10 upgrade is necessary to reduce traffic congestion and that the entire state will benefit from the increased trade coming from the Port of Mobile as part of a plan to dredge the shipping channel through Mobile Bay to the Port of Mobile. The widening and deepening of the shipping channel will allow the Port to accommodate larger container ships as well as more traffic. The additional oceangoing traffic in and out of the port will lead to more motor freight moving overland in and out of the port city. While much of that traffic will be moved by rail, a considerable portion will be moved by truck.

Gov. Ivey has expressed concerns that it the state does not build this bridge now then no bridge will ever be built, an outcome which she says is “unacceptable.”

Gov. Ivey has called for a meeting of the nine-member Toll Bridge and Road Authority on October 7 in Montgomery. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth who sits on the board has already announced his intent to vote no on the toll plan, while Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, has said the toll plan is “unfair” to the residents of Baldwin and Mobile Counties.

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

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