To the editor:
I understand the problems associated with getting stuck in traffic at either end of the tunnel. I’ve been there just trying to get downtown. If I have to go to the other side, I take the Cochrane Bridge. The question is: Whose quality of life are we trying to improve by increasing the capacity for automobiles crossing the head of the Bay – people from Baton Rouge going to Disneyland or locals moving from home to work in both directions?
The consequences of increased automobile usage include local degradation of both air and water quality due to the many emissions of automobiles, ranging from tailpipe releases of carbon dioxide to toxic heavy metals coming from tire wear and everything in between. Mobile Bay is already routinely stressed by nutrient loading, including carbon – all contributing to lower dissolved oxygen levels in the Bay and subsequent fish kills. Higher temperatures are predicted and that can make the impacts worse since less oxygen can be retained by Bay waters.
If the issues are actually acquiring tons of federal dollars (which is the only thing we ever want from Washington) to temporarily benefit the construction industry (who may or may not be local) and the local tax base, and getting people to Florida to spend money there, then by all means build the bridge and we’ll have to get used to a Bay environment that could resemble the era when paper mills ruled the air and water of Mobile! I hate to see the community stick to 20th century transportation planning and go backward instead of forward.
There is already a realization that there will probably have to be a toll imposed in order to raise the local matching funds required to get all those federal dollars and to pay the construction companies. Might it not make more sense to spend the money on building a mass transit system for two counties? The fare could cost no more than the car toll and save locals gas money (clearly more saved than spent).
Saving on gas is good for the pocketbook, good for the environment and hard on the Saudis and BP – what’s not to like about that alternative? Getting a lot of us off the road would alleviate the misery of the Florida/New Orleans-bound travelers and I can still go around by the Cochrane Bridge if I have to drive in the afternoon. As far as the out of town travelers, “Let them eat cake.”