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Toll bridge battle proves Jerry Carl a fighter

The Bridge and Bayway project eventually collapsed under the weight of widespread opposition, with Carl playing a pivotal role.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl

In an unexpected twist that has reshaped Alabama’s political scene, Congressional District 1 is now the backdrop for an unprecedented contest between two incumbent congressmen, both hailing from the Republican Party. The redistricting shuffle has pitted Congressman Barry Moore, representing District 2 since 2020, against Congressman Jerry Carl of Mobile, both caught in a high-stakes political duel.

The political careers of both men, Moore’s as a state representative and Carl’s as a county commissioner, have been marked by their distinct leadership styles and policy priorities. Alabama Political Reporter will offer a series that delves into their governing records, providing insights into their political journeys.

Jerry Carl’s statewide political stature was significantly elevated during the controversial Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project in 2019. As a Mobile County Commissioner, Carl was at the forefront of this contentious issue, advocating for a scaled-back version of the project that had ballooned from a multi-million-dollar venture to a staggering $2.1 billion undertaking.

“We began with an $850 million bridge, but it quickly transformed into a $2.1 billion project, complete with an elevated Bayway and unnecessary extravagances,” Carl remarked in 2019, highlighting the shock of the proposed $6 one-way toll by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). His concerns extended to the heavy reliance on private funding, fearing it would relinquish control of a federal interstate to a private entity, potentially leading to perpetual toll increases and impacting local commuters.

Jim Ziegler, then Alabama Auditor and a vocal critic of the toll bridge project, recognized Carl’s leadership in his novel, which chronicled the events. Carl’s decisive role was noted as a contrast to the more passive approaches of other elected officials.

“Jerry Carl [during the toll bridge fight] “decided to take a bold leadership role. (This was not always the case among elected officials), Ziegler wrote.

The Bridge and Bayway project eventually collapsed under the weight of widespread opposition, with Carl playing a pivotal role in its downfall. His journey to Congress saw him become instrumental in reviving the project, this time with a focus on cost efficiency and the elimination of exorbitant toll fees.

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The revised plan, unveiled in 2021, not only benefitted from Carl’s congressional support but also received his endorsement. Carl, reflecting on South Alabama’s growth, emphasized the necessity of resolving the I-10 congestion issue. He expressed his commitment to utilizing the $125 million federal grant secured by Senator Shelby for the bridge project, ensuring it serves the community’s needs effectively.

“South Alabama has been blessed with unprecedented economic and population growth over the past decade, and we all realize the need to fix the I-10 congestion problem,” Carl said in 2021. “It has been a priority of mine to ensure the $125 million federal grant secured by Senator Shelby is used for the I-10 Bridge project so we can address our traffic issues.”

Carl’s advocacy for a toll-free option for locals in the latest bridge proposal underscores his dedication to his constituents. His confidence in the current leadership and the new plan signals a positive step forward, marking another chapter in Carl’s legacy of serving the people of Alabama.

As Alabama’s District 1 braces for an electoral battle between Moore and Carl, the spotlight shines on their contrasting paths and dedication to public service. This unique political contest, born from the redrawing of district lines, promises to be a defining moment in Alabama’s political narrative.

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.

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