Congestion, delay, gridlock, economic loss, health hazard, extreme inconvenience — pick your label to describe a personal experience and impact due to a lack of construction on a proposed Interstate 10 Bay Bridge. All are correct for I-10 users and becoming worse, as any traveler along the Southeastern U.S. will describe. Commuters might need several labels to relay their road experience. Travelers could require other colorful and memorable labels to communicate their journey to the beach.

In addition to a void of any new business activity and tax revenue from an absence of construction funding, Mobile and the local area will suffer from selected increasing congestion costs due to the continual waiting for final approval decisions. This includes the annual hours of delay for Mobile estimated by a Texas university projected to be 10,396,000 or 30 per auto commuter, compared to 42 hours for the U.S. This same U.S. annual auto commuter contributed to congestion cost by wasting 19 gallons of fuel.

Further, the annual Mobile congestion cost is estimated to be $236 million in lost income or $670 per auto commuter, compared to the national cost of $960.

Using these estimates, the annual estimated potential Mobile jobs lost due to congestion can be calculated to be 2,299.

These numbers are estimates for auto travel only. Omitted are estimates for the impact on truck traffic and its relationship to reduced regional economic productivity from congestion.

Each number above describes the travel experiences of an interstate highway user and is supported by estimates and calculations. The figures describe “congestion” in Mobile that will become steadily worse with time.

Congestion will lead to some level of gridlock, which will produce additional concerns for a higher health hazard from an increased level of pollutants in the atmosphere.

Discussion of bridge construction should include alternate routes to generate additional traffic flow to relieve congestion, such as the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge. Using it provides both a short-run and long-run choice for drivers.

A request to electronic mapping services such as MapQuest to illustrate this route to travelers should result in fewer vehicles in the tunnels. Further, new signage on I-10 and I-65 would be helpful to direct traffic for drivers who rely on road signs.

What is required to move this construction project forward? What is required to reach final agreement among all parties interested in the location?

Don Epley, Ph.D.

Dr. Epley is the CEO and president of Coastal Economics, a Mobile company. He is the former director of the USA Center for Real Estate and Economic Development, and Emeritus Professor of Finance. He specializes in the analysis of urban and regional growth, and is the author of previous economic impact estimates of the Bay Bridge project.