It was late and the bar was nearing closing, but I figured there was time for one more glass of water. I stumbled in, tripping on something. Not sure what. There was my old buddy William Hinge Van Anterse III — Trey to his friends. As usual he was in an animated intellectual conversation.
“Nick Saban absolutely would have discovered a cure for polio if he coached in the 1930s because he would’ve known it would give him a recruiting advantage,” Trey told the bartender, who just kind of shrugged and wandered away looking tired.
“What’s up Trey?” I asked. “Long time since I’ve seen you, what’s new?”
“Hey buddy, just schooling this farm boy over here on St. Nick’s brilliance. I’ve been really busy lately. I just joined my fourth Mardi Gras group and I’ve been spending about three days a week at the hunting lodge getting ready for deer season and sighting in my gun. And if that wasn’t enough the old lady’s trying to get me to go look at houses on the Eastern Shore,” he said.
“ESho? That doesn’t sound much like you,” I said.
“I told her exactly that. What am I supposed to do, eat a bunch of grilled bean sprouts and go home at 8:30 when the tofu bars close? I don’t think so,” he said. “Plus I’d be the one driving the kids in to UMS every day, and to etiquette class. No thanks. I’m staying on this side of the pond.”
“Plus there’s all that congestion getting back and forth. You get stuck on the Causeway and you’re in trouble,” I said.
“Hey, I thought you were supposed to be some kind of newspaper guy who knows what the heck he’s talking about,” he said harshly.
“Absolutely,” I said. “I’m pretty sure I know everything.”
“Then I guess you know you don’t really get stuck on the Causeway. You get stuck on the Bayway, or Jubilee Parkway as it’s actually known. If things back up on the Causeway, you just go get dinner and a beer at Lap’s,” he said smugly.
“Whatever man. You know what I mean,” I said. “It’s almost impossible to get across the bay sometimes these days. So much congestion.”
“They need to hurry up and build that bridge over the bay so we can get to the beach without it taking three hours,” Trey said. “It’s ridiculous. Sometimes it takes so long I’m out of beer by the time we get there.”
“Well … I hate it when that happens. Actually though, I’m kind of surprised to hear you’re so fired up about building a bridge across the Mobile River — not the bay. It’s going to cost a lot of money,” I said.
“You know normally I don’t condone any kind of government spending at all except on weapons, but if we don’t get a bridge it’s going to ruin one of the great things about living here — getting down to the Gulf. I say let it rip and start building that sucker now!”
“I agree we need one, but there are still a lot of issues to be taken into consideration,” I said.
“Like what? What color to paint it? Simple, crimson. Name? The Bear Bridge. There you have it,” he said, downing the last of his Crown and Diet Coke and motioning for another.
“I’m not so sure about all that, but there are a lot of people gushing about how a bike/running path should be added to the sides so the bridge would become a real tourist attraction as well as something the locals would love. But it might add so much to the total that the bridge gets delayed or isn’t built at all,” I said.
“That all sounds fine if it doesn’t cost too much. I wouldn’t mind peeing off the top of that bridge, but let’s be realistic. How are people supposed to get onto these paths when they’re on I-10? And who’s going to go up there when it’s 100 degrees or raining like crazy or the wind’s blowing 30 miles per hour? As far as tourism goes, it doesn’t seem like we can build a public toilet in this town without claiming it’ll bring tourists and $20 million in economic impact per flush,” he said.
“That’s true. Other people saying there will have to be a toll to get across in order to pay for it,” I said.
“Well that makes a lot of sense. Slowing people down to pay a toll would be a bigger jam than the tunnel. Not to mention everyone would just continue using the tunnels if they didn’t have a toll. That’s a non-starter,” he said swigging his drink and clearly feeling his oats. “What else you got?”
“There are some people who think we ought to build the bridge, but move it up near where the Cochran-Africatown Bridge is, or just rework things to use that bridge,” I said.
Trey yawned. “Are you kidding? I’m no traffic engineer, but how in the hell are you going to get people from I-10 all the way to the north of town, then back to the Bayway without building a ton of roadway, and a lot of it right through the Delta? That’s crazier than my wife’s great aunt who thinks she’s the drummer for ZZ Top.”
“What about ditching the bridge and building a monorail to get the locals off the road and reduce congestion?” I asked. “I’ve heard that one.”
“Puh-leez! Mobilians don’t even use the bus system. You’d just see an empty monorail riding past a couple of empty tourist attractions to drop invisible people off at an empty bus stop. I don’t think so,” he said.
“There’s also another idea being floated that would have the bridge being built and while we’re at it, raise the height of the Bayway enough so it wouldn’t get knocked down by the next big hurricane. Thoughts?” I asked.
“So someone wants to stop all the traffic on the Bayway for God-knows-how-long in order to raise it?” Trey asked.
“Yes, that has been suggested,” I replied.
“I guess this would be paid for out of the money waterfall in Government Plaza?” he replied.
“So you pretty much think a plain old bridge through the heart of downtown is the way to go?” I asked.
“Yes, as long as it’s named either ‘The Bear’ or ‘The Nick.’ I’m behind that all the way,” he said.
THE GADFLY BY LAURA RASMUSSEN
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