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Plans for an alternative to I-10 bridge project to be announced Monday

Eastern Shore MPO Chair Jack Burrell says the new plan is to build the bridge and leave the existing Bayway and Causeway routes free.

Mobile River Bridge concept.

There is a news conference scheduled for Monday to discuss a new option for relieving traffic congestion on I-10 and the Bayway, which connects Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Fairhope City Council President Jack Burrell, Congressman Jerry Carl, and former ALDOT district manager Vince Calametti will discuss a new concept for relieving the traffic congestion on I-10.

Currently, I-10 motorists have to go through a tunnel under the Mobile River. The traffic on I-10 has increased to the point that there are significant slowdowns in both the early morning rush hour and in afternoons as motorists traversing between work in Mobile and home in Baldwin County or vice versa make their daily commutes. The tunnels were not designed to accommodate the current usage as Baldwin, in addition to being the state’s most popular tourist destination, is the fastest-growing county in the state.

Baldwin County has a larger population than Mobile, Montgomery, Huntsville or Birmingham, and many of those folks work in Mobile.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Transportation had proposed a bridge over the Mobile River. That controversial proposal was rejected by local officials in Baldwin County after there was public outrage that the public-private partnership to build the bridge would be financed by tolls on motorists using either the expensive new bridge or the existing tunnel.

While the public rejected the bridge concept, corporate interests are concerned that the congestion problem is slowing freight in and out of the Port of Mobile. This is a problem now, but with the state and federal government investing over $1 billion to increase the capacity at the port, planners expect that freight traffic in and out of the port will greatly increase in the next five to 10 years. That combined with a robust housing market in Baldwin County likely means that traffic congestion on I-10 is likely to increase in the coming decade.

Carl, who opposed ALDOT’s toll bridge plan when he was a congressional candidate, said that addressing the area’s infrastructure needs is a priority of his.

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Stimpson chairs the Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization. Burrell chairs the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization. They both requested that Ivey direct ALDOT to study options for the project. It was the Eastern Shore MPO who voted to reject the last ALDOT plan.

Burrell discussed the new plan with NBC Channel 15 News on Sunday. 

“I have seen the preliminary plans,” Burrell said.

Burrell told NBC 15 News that the new plan is to build the bridge and leave the existing Bayway and Causeway routes free. Burrell said that he thinks that the costs of the toll bridge will be borne entirely by the freight traffic.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ll be tolling truckers only, and from what I’ve seen, it would be a truck-only route,” Burrell told Channel 15 News.

Burrell says this will not be a public-private partnership. If the state does not build something soon, they have to give back $125 million to the federal government that has already been appropriated for the bridge.

Monday’s news conference will be at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort.

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

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