Work moves ahead on Mobile River I-10 bridge

By GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 8/5/22

DAPHNE — Work on the new Mobile River bridge and elevated Bayway will now move forward after Baldwin and Mobile officials voted to put the project on their Transportation Improvement Plans.The …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Work moves ahead on Mobile River I-10 bridge

Posted

DAPHNE — Work on the new Mobile River bridge and elevated Bayway will now move forward after Baldwin and Mobile officials voted to put the project on their Transportation Improvement Plans.

The vote by the Metropolitan Planning Organizations of the Eastern Shore and Mobile makes the $2.7-billion project eligible for federal funding. Some of the next steps will include environmental studies, including air and noise studies, Matt Ericksen, division engineer with the Alabama Department of Transportation, said.

During the Eastern Shore MPO meeting to approve the plan July 27, members who voted for the project pointed out several issues that will affect drivers.

The new bridge and Bayway will include a toll. The standard toll will be $2.50 for vehicles with a state-issued transponder and $18 for trucks, Jack Burrell, Eastern Shore MPO chairman, said. Drivers will also be able to buy a pass that will allow unlimited use for $40 a month.

The transponder pass will be similar to the SunPass prepaid toll program in Florida, Daphne Mayor Robin LeJeune said. The pass is expected to cost about $4.75 to cover postage and handling costs. Passenger vehicles without the pass would pay another $1.50 for each trip, according to the plan approved by the MPO.

The Causeway, Wallace Tunnel, Bankhead Tunnel and Africatown Bridge will not be tolled under the plan.

Construction is expected to begin in about one year and take five years to complete, meaning that that new highway over Mobile Bay could be open by 2028.

The new Bayway will be built between the two existing elevated roadways over Mobile Bay. The new Bayway will be farther above the water to reduce the risk of flooding and hurricane damage, Ericksen said.

The new system will relieve congestion on Interstate 10. The highway across the Mobile River and Mobile Bay was built in the 1970s for a daily capacity of 36,000 vehicles a day. That current total can exceed 100,000 vehicles on peak days, Burrell said.

"It is safe to say that this iteration of the Mobile River Bridge and highway project crafted with local inputs to meet our local needs is a significant step for the Eastern Shore and for all South Alabama," Burrell said. "The Eastern Shore has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decades. And quite frankly our infrastructure has not kept pace."

LeJeune said the new system will relieve traffic issues that affect all of the Eastern Shore and other areas of Baldwin County.

"Of course, every solution is not perfect. But it is something that we need to move forward. Especially here in Daphne where we get what happens on the Bayway. It happens right here in Daphne and in Spanish Fort too," LeJeune said. "When it stops on the Bayway, Daphne knows it on every level on the streets that we have even through neighborhoods. So, this is something that's very important to adapting to move forward to help alleviate those issues."

Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan said he is still concerned that the new toll route will put more traffic pressure on the free roads, particularly the Causeway, which would increase traffic in Spanish Fort.

"Naturally, you know where my concerns are and I've received several conversations with ALDOT and I feel certain they're going to address the Causeway issues and Spanish Fort issues," McMillan said.

Loxley Mayor Richard Teal said traffic congestion on the Bayway have a direct impact on his city as well.

"As I told you I couldn't support it without a free route and y'all came back with a free route," he told Ericksen. "We've got to get started somewhere in this transportation plan."

In 2019, the Eastern Shore MPO removed a previous version of the bridge plan from the TIP after ALDOT officials said tolls could be as much as $6 for a one-way trip and the tolls would include the Wallace Tunnel.

Burrell said the new plan requires that toll-free routes are available and that the tolls be removed when the system is paid for.

In addition to revenue from tolls, the system is also scheduled to receive $125 million in federal funding and $250 million from the state, Burrell said. The state has also applied for a $500 million grant under new federal infrastructure funding legislation.

Stay in the know on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Sign up for our free email newsletter.

* indicates required