The potential of a six-lane bayway was the chief concern for members of the Eastern Shore and Mobile Metropolitan Planning organizations, as the Alabama Department of Transportation gave an update on the new Interstate 10 River Bridge project.
The first phase of the project, which has recently been added back to the short-range planning documents of both organizations, has garnered some concerns over a plan to restripe the current bayway to add a lane in both directions.
Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis asked ALDOT Project Director Edwin Perry if they had collected any data related to those safety concerns.
“Not right now,” Perry said. “We’re still trying to get the team together.”
ALDOT has future plans to get a review of the safety and traffic implications of the move through the Federal Highway Administration, Perry said.
Mobile City Councilman John Williams asked Perry if the bayway, as currently constructed, could handle the added traffic from an additional lane in each direction.
“It was designed to hold full loads of traffic,” Perry said. “We’ll do additional studies for that.”
When asked by Baldwin County Commissioner Billy Jo Underwood about a possible reduction in the speed limit across a six-lane bayway, Perry said studies indicate that narrower shoulders tend to lead to reduced speeds for drivers naturally. He added that there have not been any discussions about a speed limit reduction.
Perry confirmed that the new bridge plan is still likely going to be paid for by tolls, primarily to truckers, but the newest amendment to the plan would include normal commuters as well. Perry added that the Bankhead and Wallace Tunnels as well as the Cochrane Africatown USA Bridge would remain as free routes.
While the plan is still looking at tolls to fund a hefty portion of the project, Perry did admit that ALDOT and its financial partners would continue to look for grants to increase the planned $250 million in public funding already tentatively committed to the project.
“If it were up to us we wouldn’t be looking at tolls,” he said.
Perry added that the federal infrastructure bill currently being debated in Congress could produce more funding for the project.
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