Eastern Shore MPO endorses ALDOT effort for Mobile River bridge funding

By Guy Busby
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 5/13/22

DAPHNE – Baldwin County officials endorsed a funding proposal that could bring in up to $500 million for the proposed Interstate 10 Mobile River bridge and Bayway replacement.The Eastern Shore …

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Eastern Shore MPO endorses ALDOT effort for Mobile River bridge funding

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DAPHNE – Baldwin County officials endorsed a funding proposal that could bring in up to $500 million for the proposed Interstate 10 Mobile River bridge and Bayway replacement.

The Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization voted unanimously Tuesday, May 10, to support an application by the Alabama Department of Transportation for a MEGA grant under the federal National Infrastructure Assistance Program.

Fairhope City Councilman Jack Burrell, chairman of the Eastern Shore MPO, said the grant could provide more federal funding for the project.

"This competitive national grant program was created under the new infrastructure law and is designed specifically for large-scale projects with local regional and national importance, projects just like this one," Burrell said.

One previous estimate put the total cost of the project at about $2.1 billion. State highway officials are working on new estimates that take recent inflation into account, ALDOT Director John Cooper said in a previous interview.

Burrell said the grant would provide more federal funding for a project that carries traffic between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
"Ultimately, our goal as an MPO is to solve our traffic problem at a fair price for Baldwin County residents and with as much funding from the federal government and the state as possible," Burrell said.

"Today's resolution is an important step in meeting those commitments."

Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan said the grant would help reduce local costs of the project.

"We all recognize the issues we have in front of us," McMillan said. "Do we have all the answers? No. This is just moving the project forward to achieve more grant monies and this is what this is all about, to move it forward and I'm all for it."

The vote came during a special meeting of the MPO. Fairhope Mayor Sherri Sullivan said the vote was called to meet a federal deadline for the grant.

"This money that's becoming available from the federal government, you have to move this fast," Sullivan said. "These grant applications are not getting much of a deadline for those to apply for this money, so it's really imperative that we have these shovel-ready projects and that we move forward as quickly and efficiently as possible to make sure that if we can get this grant money that we do get it."

Eastern Shore MPO members also said they planned to meet in upcoming weeks to vote on putting the project back on the group's Transportation Improvement Plan. The TIP would make the project eligible for federal funding.

The Mega program will provide about $5 billion for projects throughout the country, Matt Ericksen, ALDOT division engineer, said. Ericksen said ALDOT is still working preparing the grant application but could apply for between $250 million and $500 million.

Three audience members expressed concerns about the bridge project.

Dr. Lou Campomenosi said the bridge is needed, but local and state officials still seem to have not worked out plans for the project.

"I do think that it's important for us to be moving forward, but on the other hand, what does the plan look like? You've got two weeks to get this thing done, to get something to the feds," Campomenosi said. "What is that plan going to look like? What happens if you're left with a toll that's beyond what we've talked about? We talked about a $2.50 toll, perhaps. That seemed to be acceptable, but what happens if the plan calls for something more and then you have to make a decision about putting it on the TIP or not?"

In 2019, the MPO removed an earlier version of the bridge project from the TIP after state officials said that plan included a toll of up to $6 a trip. The current plan would include tolls of no more than $2.50 to use the new bridge and I-10 Bayway. The Causeway, Wallace Tunnel and Africatown Bridge would not be tolled under the current proposal.

The Bayway was completed about 50 years ago. The elevated highway was designed to carry a maximum of 30,000 vehicles a day. More than 100,000 vehicles use the highway during peak seasons, according to MPO reports.

The project is expected to take five years to complete, according to ALDOT reports.

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