GULF SHORES — A third bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway is a step closer to reality with the opening of bids by the Alabama Department of Transportation, Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft …
GULF SHORES — A third bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway is a step closer to reality with the opening of bids by the Alabama Department of Transportation, Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said.
State officials opened bids on the project Friday, Sept. 30. Craft said some of the proposals were within budget range.
"The estimated budget range was between $48 million and $60 million," Craft said Monday, Oct 3. "The low bid was Scott Bridge Company from Opelika at $51,855,000. So, it is well within budget. The second lowest was $53.9 (million)."
The mayor said two other bids were for about $60.4 million and $67 million.
"So, the good news from this seat is that there is an underbudget bid or within budget bid to build a bridge," Craft said. "Now, will that bridge be built or not, I can't answer that. I know there are still negotiations going on between the parties, but I do believe they are in the process."
He said state officials are still looking over bids to determine if the proposals are acceptable.
"ALDOT's going to work on that and make sure a conforming bridge and then a decision will have to be made whether to issue a contract or not, but a big hurdle over and that is there is a price that is within the expected budget range," Craft said. "I can't tell you what's going to happen from there because I don't know and I'm not sure anybody outside the Governor's Office knows, but at this point in time, we've got a good bid on a good project."
Tony Harris, ALDOT spokesman, said the department is moving forward with plans for a new bridge.
"Everyone agrees traffic on Highway 59 is bad, getting worse, and hurts residents and visitors alike," Harris said. "ALDOT is proposing to build a new, free, public bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway that will relieve traffic congestion and provide an additional evacuation route. People will be able to move more quickly and safely."
Currently, two bridges carry traffic over the Intracoastal Waterway to the Alabama Gulf Coast. Alabama 59 crosses the waterway over the Dr. W.C. Holmes Bridge in Gulf Shores. That bridge carries more than 10 million vehicles a year, according to Gulf Shores traffic reports.
A toll bridge at the south end of the Baldwin Beach Express also crosses the waterway in Orange Beach.
In a previous statement, Craft said state officials rejected a proposal by toll bridge operators to not build the new bridge if the company expanded services and provided toll-free passes for residents. The mayor said the proposal would have restricted new bridges over the waterway for 50 years.
Harris said the proposal was not acceptable to ALDOT.
After years of negotiations, the foreign-owned toll bridge company refused terms that would provide reduced traffic congestion and instead demanded a 50-year ban on building any new bridge, regardless of need. The company has admitted its goal is to protect their investment. ALDOT's goal is to reduce traffic congestion, Harris said.
"Rather than the foreign toll bridge company impose restrictions for the next 50 years, we want to provide a solution that is in the best interests of Alabamians."
The new bridge would be built between the two existing structures. Gulf Shores is extending Waterway East Boulevard north of the Intracoastal to link with the planned road to the proposed bridge.
Another bridge crosses Perdido Pass in Orange Beach near the Florida state line.