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Alabama buys Foley Beach Bridge, ends tolls

This strategic move will render the bridge toll-free, enhancing accessibility to the state’s flourishing coastal areas.

Foley Beach Express Bridge Tim James
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In a major development for Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Governor Kay Ivey, alongside Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon and representatives from the Baldwin County Bridge Company, announced on Thursday the state’s acquisition of the Foley Beach Express Bridge. This strategic move will render the bridge toll-free, enhancing accessibility to the state’s flourishing coastal areas.

Governor Ivey expressed her enthusiasm for the initiative stating, “Alabama’s Gulf Coast continues to experience record growth and success, and I am proud we are making needed infrastructure improvements in the area that will help alleviate traffic congestion for Alabamians and those visiting our beaches.” She credited the collaboration of local leaders and stakeholders for making this progress possible.

The transaction is scheduled to finalize in May, with toll collection ceasing at noon on the closing date, yet to be announced. Once the state assumes ownership, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will manage the bridge operations, supporting both southbound and northbound traffic initially.

This acquisition is part of a broader strategy to improve traffic flow to Alabama’s beaches. ALDOT is currently constructing the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, due for completion in early summer 2026. Post-completion, the Foley Beach Express Bridge will exclusively carry northbound traffic, while the new bridge will handle southbound lanes. This arrangement is designed to streamline vehicle movement along the newly designated State Route 161, previously part of the Interstate 10 route.

The financial terms of the agreement involve ALDOT purchasing the bridge for $57 million from the Baldwin County Bridge Company and investing an additional $3 million in local road improvements in Orange Beach. The planned enhancements include widening Canal Road and upgrading the intersection at State Route 161/180. These projects, already slated in ALDOT’s State Transportation Improvement Program for 2024-2027, aim to settle a lawsuit filed by the Baldwin County Bridge Company and dissolve its contract with the city.

Mayor Kennon highlighted the collaborative spirit of the agreement stating, “This agreement is the result of collaborative efforts between ALDOT, the City of Orange Beach and the Baldwin County Bridge Company and was made possible by the city’s willingness to forego annual financial benefits in order to achieve improved traffic flow for Orange Beach and Gulf Shores citizens and visitors.”

The Orange Beach City Council is set to vote on a resolution to approve the proposed agreement in its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 7.

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Neal Belitsky, President of the Baldwin County Bridge Company, reflected on the company’s long service, noting that they have been “honored to serve the community and are proud to have provided a safe and reliable route to the beach for nearly a quarter century.”

As part of winding down operations, the Baldwin County Bridge Company announced that it will not accept new accounts or changes to existing accounts after April 30. Refunds for any remaining balances in accounts will begin in June, with detailed instructions to be provided by Huntington Bank’s ChoicePay service.

This pivotal development marks a new chapter in Alabama’s commitment to enhancing infrastructure and accessibility to its coastal regions, promising smoother travels and a better experience for both residents and visitors.

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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