Several local leaders came together on Monday to put forth a concept that will help traffic flow more smoothly on Interstate 10 and will not include tolls on existing routes or toll passenger cars and trucks.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Fairhope City Council President Jack Burrell, Congressman Jerry Carl and retired local transportation expert Vince Calametti discussed the idea of building a new bridge over the Mobile River dedicated for use only by 18-wheelers and similarly large trucks and to restripe the Bayway to add a third lane in each direction. Doing so will remove large trucks from the Wallace Tunnel where many traffic tie-ups begin, add an estimated 40 percent more travel capacity to the Bayway, and ensure the region does not lose a $125 million federal grant for infrastructure work.
“Protecting this $125 million federal grant is critically important,” Stimpson said. “We must demonstrate to the federal government that there is local support for moving forward. Failure to do so would cause the federal government to possibly redirect these funds.”
Burrell said: “You may or may not know this, but this corridor has been recognized as one of the most congested corridors in the entire nation…Under this plan, traffic will flow more smoothly with fewer delays. People and goods will be able to move more quickly, efficiently and predictably through our area.”
“This problem is extremely important to the business community in South Alabama, not just Mobile, but South Alabama. We have spent so much time and energy focusing on the port, on the businesses the port generates,” Carl said. “From a business standpoint, we’ve got to move forward, we’ve got to get it done.”
“Throughout the I-10 bridge debate, the Alabama trucking community has been ready and willing to consider proposals that are fair and equitable,” said Alabama Trucking Association President and CEO Mark Colson. “We will carefully review this new concept being presented. At first glance, it certainly raises some important questions. As this process unfolds, it is our hope that all interested parties are willing to come to the table to offer reasonable solutions bearing in mind that throughout the pandemic, truckers have been working tirelessly to keep America moving. The sacrifices made by truckers kept the American economy rolling, and we are still working every day to drive the recovery.”
Under the concept:
- Large trucks over 46 feet in length would be prohibited from using the Wallace Tunnel and instead would travel over the Mobile River on a dedicated truck-only bridge. Taking large trucks out of the Wallace Tunnel will decrease average passenger car delays by approximately 60 to 90 minutes during peak travel times.
- Construction of the truck bridge would mean the signed hazardous cargo route would no longer pass through the Africatown community. Hazardous cargo on large trucks would use the new bridge dedicated for large truck travel.
- The Bayway will be restriped and converted from two lanes to three lanes in each direction, increasing traffic flow by an estimated 40 percent.
- Existing routes would be protected from tolls and fees. Only 18-wheelers and similar large trucks traveling on the Truck Bridge would pay a fee that would be less than half the fee considered in a previous plan.
Next steps for the concept will include studies and analysis by the Mobile and Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organizations, as well as time for public comment and public hearings.
The state is planning to contribute $250 million if the concept is approved by the MPOs, which would be in addition to the $125 million federal grant secured by Sen. Richard Shelby and Alabama’s congressional delegation. The estimated total cost of the plan is $725 million.
Acting in their capacity as chairs of the Mobile and Eastern Shore MPOs, Stimpson and Burrell wrote to Gov. Kay Ivey earlier this year asking her to direct the Alabama Department of Transportation to develop options for local officials to consider. Both said there had been discussions among local leaders about the need for some plan to address worsening traffic problems as the area grows.
Ivey agreed to their request and directed ALDOT to work with the MPOs to explore options for a “locally-supported solution” that would also receive state funding in addition to the $125 million federal grant secured by Shelby and Alabama’s congressional delegation.