FAIRHOPE — Baldwin County officials said there is no money to extend Baldwin Beach Express north to Interstate 65. The project is officially on hold.At a county work session on long-range …
FAIRHOPE — Baldwin County officials said there is no money to extend Baldwin Beach Express north to Interstate 65. The project is officially on hold.
At a county work session on long-range planning Jan. 10, officials said they are moving the extension from being scheduled for completion by 2027 to being listed as an inactive project.
County Commissioner James "Jeb" Ball said the county does not have enough money to pay for a project expected to cost at least $300 million and that no other agencies will help with the cost.
"The county is never going to be able to fund it," Ball said. "All the promises that have been made to us, all the promises you've heard over the last four terms. Our representatives aren't going to do anything. The governor's not going to do anything. ALDOT's not going to do anything."
He said local and state officials had promised representatives from Novelis that the road would be completed by the end of the decade. Novelis is building an aluminum rolling mill and recycling center near Bay Minette. That project is expected to cost more than $2 billion and employ about 1,000 workers when completed.
"Novelis is expecting us to have this built by 2029. I think Novelis as one is going to have to put the heat on somebody," Ball said. "They're the only ones who can create the pressure."
Ball said he and other local representatives were told the state would not help with the project.
"Nobody's giving us $300 million. It's probably more," Ball said. "I went all the way up there to Montgomery just to spend 10 minutes to be told that that road had no significant impact on the state of Alabama or Baldwin County. It was never in the plan. It was never in the future. ALDOT's not going to touch it."
He said county officials had hoped to pay the cost of a project with a toll on the new section of the Beach Express. Baldwin County voters, however, rejected a referendum in 2020 that would have allowed the county to create a toll authority to set fees on a new highway.
"When people complain about not getting it done, I tell them all the reasons," Ball said. "No. 1, y'all voted a toll down. You voted the only mechanism down because you didn't like the word toll. You voted it down. We can tell the public that."
Commission Chairman Charles "Skip" Gruber also said the project cannot move forward without funding.
"Until we can find a way to fund it, it's not going to happen," Gruber said.
The Baldwin Beach Express now runs from the Intracoastal Waterway in Orange Beach to I-10. The proposed next phase of the project would have extended the four-lane highway 24.5 miles north to I-65, according to county reports. The project would include 18 bridges and interchanges with I-65 and U.S. 31 near Bay Minette.