For the first time since August 2019, when locals banded together to overwhelmingly reject the state’s $2.1 billion, toll-dependent Mobile River Bridge & Bayway proposal, Gov. Kay Ivey indicated she’s supportive of renewed efforts to find a compromise.
In a Feb. 2 letter Ivey wrote to Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Fairhope City Council President Jack Burrell, the governor acknowledged “the people of Baldwin and Mobile counties have waited far too long — more than 20 years — for a viable solution to the region’s growing I-10 traffic congestion.”
Making note of a $125 million federal grant that could be revoked if the state fails to proceed, Ivey said she has “directed the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to work with your respective Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to explore options that will reduce traffic congestion while allowing citizens to use existing routes across the bay without paying tolls.”
Stimpson and Burrell are respective chairs of the Mobile MPO and Eastern Shore MPO, on opposite ends of the proposal to build an elevated eight-lane Bayway and six-lane bridge along Interstate 10 across Mobile Bay and the Mobile River. Ivey’s letter arrived in response to correspondence Stimpson and Burrell sent Jan. 29, seeking her support and pledging local cooperation, while also noting the risks of falling off the federal government’s radar.
“History suggests that anytime there is a change in administrations in Washington, the chances increase dramatically that commitments made by the previous administrations may no longer be honored,” they wrote. “To that end, we believe it would be prudent — and time-sensitive — to show the incoming leadership at the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration that we remain committed to demonstrating local support for a plan that will not only make use of the current $125 million federal grant, but will work with both the state and federal governments to get this plan underway.”
Stimpson and Burrell stressed the area’s importance as a transportation hub, but also emphasized they’re “interested in a solution that reduces congestion while allowing citizens to use all existing routes across the bay without paying any tolls.”
ALDOT’s 2019 plan, which at one point called for $6 one-way tolls for most drivers and made no promise existing routes would remain toll-free, was declared “dead” by the governor after the Eastern Shore MPO omitted the project from its transportation improvement plan (TIP). Afterward, Ivey repeatedly suggested any path forward would have to be paved by locals. She reiterated that requirement this week.
“As part of this study, I have also directed ALDOT to recommend to me the amount of state transportation funds that can be directed to a project that receives necessary local support,” she wrote. “I encourage your MPOs to continue to engage the public, members of the Mobile and Baldwin legislative delegations, and other local officials to seek their views … We must continue working together at all levels of government to creatively find solutions to our most pressing infrastructure challenges.”
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