The Fairhope City Council joined the Eastern Shore cities of Daphne and Spanish Fort Monday in adopting a resolution in support of the scaled-back $1.2 billion plan to build a new bridge and expressway over Mobile Bay and the Mobile River, while the Baldwin County Commission is expected to consider a similar move on Feb. 18.
The Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) adopted the resolution Jan. 22, nearly five months after it voted to omit the Alabama Department of Transportation’s (ALDOT) larger, $2.1 billion project from its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), which effectively crippled the state’s proposal to levy tolls as high as $6 each way for daily commuters.
Eastern Shore business owner Kevin Spriggs appeared before the City Council prior to its vote, explaining that his Common Sense Campaign was tasked with reviving the proposal without tolls, and worked with local elected officials and engineers to draft the Coastal Alabama Consensus Plan.
That plan shaves about $800 million off the project’s price by reducing the number of bridge lanes from eight to six and adding express lanes in the center of the existing Bayway, rather than building an entire new span across the bay. While it does not eliminate the possibility of tolls, it does preserve toll-free “legacy routes” along the existing Bayway and Causeway, including through the Wallace and Bankhead tunnels.
“That expressway could have a toll on it, but it would be a minimal toll, not a $6 toll,” he said. “And it’s possible, depending on the state funding sources, that maybe a toll isn’t necessary. Our objective is to show Montgomery — Gov. [Kay] Ivey, [ALDOT] Director John Cooper — that we do have a consensus on what we would like to see happen.”
But a true consensus, Council President Jack Burrell said later, would require the Mobile MPO to pass its own resolution supporting the expressway plan. At its own meeting Jan. 22, the Mobile MPO tabled the resolution, with Mayor Sandy Stimpson indicating he was waiting for feedback from ALDOT and County Commissioner Jerry Carl, saying it was too early to fully evaluate the proposal.
“We are working very hard with the Mobile MPO to speak in one voice to the people in Montgomery and hopefully we’ll get this project moving along,” Burrell said.
If both MPOs sign on, Ivey has indicated the state may put the project back on its transportation list to begin detailed engineering, and apply for federal grants and other funding opportunities.
In other business, the council approved a contract for professional services with Kopesky & Britt LLC for closing costs and title insurance related to its purchase of the “clock corner” at the intersection of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street, paying 50 percent of the $525,000 asking price. The Fairhope Single Tax Colony paid the other half.
The council also approved intermittent street closures March 8, 13 and 15 for the filming of “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” a young adult movie being produced for release on Amazon Prime.
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