Mobile’s Interstate 10 bridge came close to falling down, and it hasn’t even been built yet. A draft of top infrastructure projects being vetted by the Trump Administration doesn’t include the long-desired, much-needed I-10 Mobile River bridge, and it’s not entirely clear who’s to blame for the mishap.
The draft, first released by McClatchy Newspapers late last month, includes some 50 infrastructure projects from across the United States, but none in Alabama. Governors were supposed to submit project proposals to the Trump transition team in December to be added to the list.
“[The Trump team] seek[s] examples of priority infrastructure projects that might be incorporated into a future infrastructure investment program,” said a letter from the National Governors Association (NGA) dated Dec. 16. “Specifically, the transition team is looking for three to five project suggestions from each state that they would vet for inclusion in a new program.”
According to Yasamie August, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s spokesperson, the governor’s office did submit a list to the transition, which included the I-10 project. Lagniappe could not confirm the date that list was received by the NGA, which gathered the proposals and submitted them to the Trump team.
“It is important to note, the governor’s office did not make a mistake,” August said in a statement. “The National Governors Association asked all the states to submit a list of priorities in December, as we did. That information was then submitted to what was then the Trump transition team. The list of projects released this week was not reflective of all the projects submitted by the states. The list Alabama submitted included the Mobile River Bridge and other smaller projects. In 2015, the governor testified before Congress and addressed the need for funding significant projects like the Mobile River Bridge project.”
The list the governor’s office provided Lagniappe, which officials say was sent to the NGA, is an undated PDF document created Jan. 24, the day McClatchy released the draft with no Alabama projects listed. When asked for confirmation the same list was received by the NGA, August did not respond.
As soon as the draft list of proposals was released by the press, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, a longtime advocate of an I-10 bridge project, moved to correct the issue.
“As soon as we heard about the situation, my office reached out to the new staff at the federal Department of Transportation to emphasize the need for the I-10 bridge,” Byrne said in a statement. “We have been reassured they are aware of the project and that the project list is not final or comprehensive. I believe our efforts have succeeded in assuring the I-10 bridge will be on the list.”
Mike Lee, chairman of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce’s Build the Bridge Coalition, said that while it’s upsetting the project wasn’t on the released draft, he’s glad the issue is being addressed.
“It’s important to get back on there and get it corrected,” Lee said. “We’ve been told from the federal level that it’s a major bottleneck on I-10 between Los Angeles and Jacksonville so it should be high profile.”
In a phone conversation, NGA spokesperson Elena Waskey told Lagniappe the NGA received a list from Gov. Bentley, but would not confirm when it was received. Asked if she could guarantee the I-10 project would be on any final list vetted by Trump administration officials, Waskey gave her word.
“Yes, absolutely,” she said. “The bridge will be on the list.”