Optimism about funding the proposed $850 million Interstate 10 bridge project is still strong, especially after Alabama Department of Transportation officials, Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization members and elected officials attended a two-day innovative funding workshop on the project this week.

Darren Timothy, from the Federal Highway Administration, joined MPO members Wednesday to give details of the workshop at a regular meeting of the planning organization.

Timothy said the workshop was a follow up to a visit a local delegation took to Washington D.C. last October. Funding sources such as public-private partnerships, Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans and tolling were all discussed.

The TIFIA program allows the FHWA to offer direct loans for projects of national or regional significance, Timothy said. The program can work hand in hand with tolling, as an established funding source in required in conjunction with the loans, he said.

Tolling is becoming more and more popular nationwide, Timothy said, because of limited resources.

“Tolling charges users,” Timothy said. “It’s a way of aligning costs of the facility with those who use it.”

One of the downsides to tolling is toll booths and toll plazas, he said, it also comes with many restrictions.

In the field of public-private partnerships, Timothy said, the group discussed how states have benefited from sharing the burden of large projects with private investors.

ALDOT Regional Engineer Vince Calametti said the conference was beneficial.

“What we did learn is that there’s no hidden pot of money and it will take an innovative plan to make the bridge a reality,” he said. “It was a good couple of days. I’ve learned a lot.”

Kevin Harrison, director of transportation planning for the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, said he was optimistic the bridge project would get funded.

“It was a long two days,” he said about the meeting. “It was an educational two days.”