Governor: Mobile Bay toll bridge project is ‘dead’
FAIRHOPE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Wednesday that a proposed Mobile Bay toll bridge is “dead” after Baldwin County officials took a decisive stand against the controversial proposal to build one of the nation’s largest bridges.
The Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization voted 8-1 Wednesday night to remove the bridge from the area’s transportation plan. The project must be in the plan detailing the region’s transportation priorities to qualify for federal funding.
“There is no pathway forward, and this project is dead,” Ivey said in a statement issued within minutes of the vote.
The planning group’s decision came after a four-hour meeting in which some residents in Baldwin County expressed outrage over the tolls that could cost up to $6 each way. They described how the cost would make it a struggle to travel to jobs or care for aging relatives on the opposite side of the bay.
The crowd applauded after the vote, according to video streamed by news outlets.
“If bridge equals toll, then the citizens of coastal Alabama choose no bridge, no toll,” said Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood, who chairs the planning organization, according to FOX-10 video of the meeting
The governor’s proclamation that the project was dead marked a quiet end to the tempest that had erupted in coastal Alabama over the proposed tolls.
The proposed Interstate 10 bridge across the Mobile River and Mobile Bay would have spanned about 10 miles (16 kilometers) and soared hundreds of feet above the water near downtown. State officials had said the tolls were needed to finance the proposed $2.1 billion bridge.
The proposed tolls would have ranged from $3 to $6 based on the distance traveled or a person would have been able to buy an unlimited toll pass for $90 per month.
“That’s $1,080 per car (per year),” State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who had been outspoken opponent of the toll bridge, told the panel.
Ivey earlier in the day had asked the planning organization to keep the project alive as the Alabama Department of Transportation explored funding options to reduce, or eliminate the proposed tolls.
“We all know that the only way to see if this bridge is possible is to keep the process going,” Ivey wrote in the letter to Haygood and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
She said the project was critical for the coastal region and all of Alabama.
After the planning group’s vote, Ivey canceled an Oct. 7 meeting of the state toll road and bridge authority that she had called to discuss the project.