A national transportation bill that recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives could give officials most of the funding needed for the $750 million Mobile River bridge project.
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) applauded the $300 billion bill, which had strong bipartisan approval. The Senate previously passed a transportation bill, but according to Byrne, a conference committee will need to be called to iron out the differences before the legislation is sent to President Barack Obama.
The bill, which funds highway projects for three years, includes a program that focuses on projects of regional and national significance, and Byrne believes the I-10 project would qualify.
That could potentially be huge news for the project, as the money could make up all of the 80 percent funding needed from federal dollars, Byrne said.
The bill didn’t pass without some debate, though. Byrne said most of the discussion involved minor details, but the funding source was also questioned. For instance, House democrats asked for the funding to come from an increase in the gasoline tax, but Republicans found other ways to fund it.
Although the passage of this bill could mean federal funding is in place for the bridge, state funding is another story. ALDOT Assistant Regional Engineer Matthew Ericksen said the department has not ruled out any funding source at this point.
Acknowledging that he has no control over how the state decides to fund the project, Byrne brought up Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) money as a possible solution.
GOMESA funds are reserved for coastal counties from the leasing of offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Byrne said Mobile and Baldwin counties’ allotment of those funds could cover the 20 percent the state is required to chip in for the project.
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