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Will an exchange between a lawmaker and ALDOT director breathe new life into I-10 Bridge?

Bill Britt



Last week, Gov. Kay Ivey invited South Alabama lawmakers and other stakeholders to a meeting with ALDOT consultants to address questions which have surfaced over building the I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge.

Much has been made of the so-called heated exchange between ALDOT Director John Cooper and freshman State Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, but an agreement made during the terse dialogue could have far-reaching consequences for the I-10 project as a whole.

During the back and forth, Simpson complained that the local delegation didn’t have a final vote on the proposed bridge project. Cooper answered him by pledging that he would convince Ivey to allow Mobile and Baldwin lawmakers the opportunity to have the final say if Simpson would support approval of the project by the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Simpson appeared to agree as long as it was in writing.

By statute, local lawmakers do not have a vote on the issue but this is a concession that Ivey can make to move the project forward.

Why this is important is because the state cannot determine the final cost of bridge construction or the actual toll amount until the regional MPOs approve the funding request under  49 U.S.C. 5303(j), which in part reads, the MPO is “to develop a Transportation Improvement Program — a list of upcoming transportation projects — covering a period of at least four years.”

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962, requires that an MPO must request funding for any transportation project by placing it in its TIP proposal. The goal of the statute was to ensure that local citizens had a voice in deciding which transportation project best suited the needs of the local community.

Once the two South Alabama MPOs approve a request for funding, then the state can send out RFPs to construction companies. Until those things happen, the cost of the bridge and the toll remain relatively uncertain.

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On the same day that Cooper and ALDOT consultants met with members of the local delegation, the Mobile MPO moved to postpone a final vote on whether to request funds from the federal government for I-10 bridge until after the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge, and Tunnel Authority holds a special meeting in October.

Opponents of the toll bridge had hoped to kill the project by having the Mobile MPO remove the TIP funding request altogether.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who is the self-appointed face of the opposition, said the vote to delay gives the “well-funded bridge opponents more time to prepare their complaints and file their lawsuits against the project.”


Zeigler has not answered APR‘s request for him to disclose who is funding opposition.

A vote by the Eastern Shore MPO, Baldwin County, is expected this week.

Mobile area-based political operative, Jon Gray, predicts that the Baldwin County, vote, “will nail the coffin shut,” on the bridge project.

Gray’s sudden opposition is a topic of speculation in Montgomery since he worked with ALDOT to launch the bridge project he now opposes.

But Simpson’s promise to Cooper may keep the project alive despite Zeigler’s threat and Gray’s prediction.

Toward the end of Cooper and Simpson’s discussion, Simpson said he would recommend the MPO let the project move forward if he had the governor’s promise on allowing the South Alabama delegation’s vote in writing.

“If you put it in writing that says I will put it to the delegation and let them answer the question, then I will recommend that,” Simpson said.

Cooper asked, “Will you ask the MPO to put it back in the TIP?”

Simpson replied, “If you get it in writing that says…”

Cooper said he would make that recommendation to Ivey.

“I think that’s it,” Simpson said.

To which Cooper replied, “You’ve caught it. I hope you’re ready to skin it.”

However, after making the agreement with Cooper a few days later, a more somber Simpson appeared on APT’s Capitol Journal suggesting the state go back to the drawing board for a less ambitious bridge connecting the two counties.

Simpson said he doesn’t understand why the project has to be undertaken at this time and floats the idea of waiting until after the 2020 elections.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.



Report: Transitioning to electric vehicles could save Alabama millions in health costs

Alabama would experience approximately 500 less asthma attacks per year, about 38 fewer premature deaths and prevent more than 2,200 lost workdays annually.

Micah Danney




Alabama could save $431 million in public health costs per year by 2050, if the state shifted to an electric transportation sector between now and then, according to a new study by the American Lung Association.

Such a transition would reduce other health-related issues, said the organization, which used data on pollution from vehicles and from oil refineries to calculate its findings.

Alabama would experience approximately 500 less asthma attacks per year, about 38 fewer premature deaths and prevent more than 2,200 lost workdays annually.

The transportation sector is one of the main contributors to air pollution and climate change, said William Barrett, the association’s director of advocacy for clean air and the study’s author.

“We have the technology to transition to cleaner cars, trucks and buses, and by taking that step we can prepare Alabama for the future while also seeing the health and economic benefits forecasted in ‘The Road to Clean Air,’” Barrett said. “Especially as our state faces the impacts of climate change, such as extreme storms, this is a powerful and practical opportunity to take action to improve our economy, our health and our future.”

Trading combustion-powered vehicles for electric ones could result in $11.3 billion in avoided health costs across southern states by mid-century, the report estimated, and prevent roughly 1,000 premature deaths.

Nationally, Americans stand to save $72 billion in health costs and $113 billion in avoided climate change impacts, the ALA said.

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The path to that future depends on leaders factoring public health effects into decisions about transportation, Barrett said.

That involves steps like pursuing electric vehicle fleets when purchasing decisions are being made and supporting the creation of enough charging stations along highways, roads and at truck stops.

Investing in that infrastructure can drive wider economic benefits, Barrett said. He cited California’s increased manufacturing of electric vehicles.


Tesla is the most well-known producer that has located there, but Barrett said that makers of trucks and buses have also chosen to locate their facilities in the state.

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Shelby announces more than $15 million in grants for projects in Tuscaloosa, the Wiregrass region

Eddie Burkhalter




Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby on Thursday announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded two grants totaling more than $15 million for infrastructure projects and planning in Tuscaloosa and the Wiregrass region. 

One Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development grant for $15 million is to be used to improve access to the Riverwalk area in West Tuscaloosa and a second grant of $450,000 to the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission is to fund feasibility studies related to transportation projects in the Wiregrass region, according to a press release from Shelby’s office. 

“I am proud to announce that Alabama has been awarded two BUILD grants, one to improve infrastructure investments in Tuscaloosa and a planning grant to assist the Wiregrass region,” Shelby said in a statement. “Both BUILD grants will provide important federal resources that will improve infrastructure and promote increased economic development opportunities in Alabama. I would like to thank Secretary Chao, the Department of Transportation, as well as the local communities for their work on these projects.”

The $15 million grant for Tuscaloosa will be used to make improvements to the Black Warrior River barge mooring, construct a bicycle and pedestrian path and complete a pedestrian bridge. The mooring improvements will allow the abandoned lock structure to be used for the construction of the shared-use path, according to the release. The pedestrian bridge will cross the new Jack Warner Parkway, and the bicycle and pedestrian path will run from the new pedestrian bridge to the existing riverfront park to the east, with lighting and security elements.

The $450,000 grant to the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission will fund the studies of a project that would widen approximately 24 miles of State Route 167 from a two-lane to a four-lane, from the Alabama State Line to U.S. Route 84.

The second project would widen approximately 13 miles of State Route 52, extending a segment from Geneva to Dothan that is currently being widened to State Route 167. Both of these projects could receive construction funding in the future, according to Shelby’s office.

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Governor announces $1.5 million for local road, bridge projects






Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Transportation on Wednesday announced $1.5 million in state funding being awarded to cities and counties for various local road and bridge projects.

The funding comes in the final award cycle during the inaugural year of the Annual Grant Program, a new program created under the Rebuild Alabama Act. The Rebuild Alabama Act requires ALDOT to establish an annual program setting aside $10 million off the top of the state’s share of new gas tax revenue for local road and bridge projects.

This award cycle added six projects to the 37 projects funded earlier this year, bringing the total amount of state funds during the inaugural year of the Annual Grant Program to $10.2 million, exceeding the amount of state funds required by the Rebuild Alabama Act. A total of $7 million in state funds was awarded in January, and $1.7 million in state funds was awarded in June.

“We are well on our way to rebuilding Alabama’s roads and bridges, and this $1.5 million is a significant step of the process. When I signed the Rebuild Alabama Act into law, I assured the people of Alabama that all areas of our state would see a benefit, and we are delivering on that promise,” Ivey said. “Not only will we see these improvements as we drive on our roads, but we will see a ripple effect in areas like public safety and economic development. Investing in Alabama’s infrastructure is truly an investment in Alabama’s future.” 

In this latest round of funding, the six local governments receiving state funds are providing a total of $705,941 in local matching funds even though matching funds are not required to be eligible for the Annual Grant Program.

It is anticipated that all projects will be under contract by the end of the calendar year after bids are taken.

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Alabama Power extends summer pool on Lake Martin into fall

Brandon Moseley




Last week, Alabama Power announced that it is extending the summer pool on Lake Martin into fall, allowing more boating and recreational opportunities than would be possible if the implementation of the winter drawdown began last Tuesday as scheduled.

Hydro Services manager Jim Crew said that the fall extension is granted because water is plentiful throughout the Tallapoosa and Coosa river basins and conditions are met at Alabama Power dams across the system.

Until Oct. 15, Lake Martin’s water level will remain at 491 feet mean sea level. After that date, the level gradually will be drawn down to 484 feet mean sea level by the third week of November. The seasonal drawdown has several advantages, the most important of which is flood prevention. The winter pool level provides storage space in the reservoir system for spring rains.

At the local level, the lower water allows repairs and improvements to docks that are underwater during the summer. The drawdown also allows more access to the lake bottom during winter cleanup efforts and assists in the control of some invasive weed species along the shoreline as well.

Alexander City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ed Collari said that extending the summer pool level offers economic benefits to Lake Martin communities that provide services to part-time lake residents and visitors.

“Economically, that’s great news for our community,” Collari said. “The increased lake levels will allow people to continue to enjoy the lake into the fall. We’ve seen already this year what having people here around the lake will do, as that’s reflected in our community sales tax levels. The higher water level will encourage people to spend more time in our communities.”

Alabama Power is licensed to operate Martin Dam and manage the reservoir. The license stipulates Sept. 1 as the drawdown commencement date unless four specific criteria are met, indicating that the system of reservoirs on the Tallapoosa and Coosa rivers contains enough water to maintain navigation levels downstream.

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The conditional fall extension of the summer pool is new to the licensing terms for Lake Martin. It was not included in license terms of Alabama Power’s earlier licenses, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission added it to the license issued in December 2015 after the lake community overwhelmingly argued for it.

Analysis of data at that time indicated the fall extension could be expected to occur about once every four years; however, this is the third year since the license has been in effect the fall extension has been granted.

Rainfall has been far above average in the Lake Martin area this year. Normal precipitation for the period of January through August is just under 39 inches, but more than 54 inches of rain have fallen in the lake area so far, according to the National Weather Service.


Alabama Power representatives urge boaters to enjoy the extension of summer safely.

Individuals with boats and other water-related equipment and facilities should always be alert to changing conditions on Alabama Power reservoirs and be prepared to take the necessary steps to protect their properties.

Manmade lakes across Alabama provide fishing, boating and recreational opportunities to people across Alabama. It also provides habitat for wildlife including ducks, geese, turtles and many other water birds including seagulls.

The lakes provide plenty of cheap, renewable electric power through the hydro-electric dams Alabama Power operates while increasing shoreline habitat and flood control.

For more information about Alabama Power lakes, download the new Smart Lakes app or visit You can call 800-525-3711 for lake condition updates.

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