Though it’s only a draft, the Environmental Impact Study the U.S. Department of Transportation recently released online suggests the long-awaited Interstate 10 bridge of the Mobile River could have significant effects on local businesses both large and small.
The environmental impact study will get fine tuned over the next six months, and the project itself will be designed over the next two years.
The EIS report shows four possible alternative paths the 215-foot tall bridge could take, which are listed as Alternatives A, B, B (Prime) and C. Three of these — A, B and B (Prime) — would add a lane to the eastbound Broad Street on ramp and carry it onto the I-10 mainline, thereby widening the eastbound section of the Interstate to six lanes.
Alternative B and B (Prime), the preferred route, would affect both Austal USA, Mobile Abrasives and Harrison Brothers. They would also require the acquisition of 13 smaller businesses near the waterfront area.
Delta Bail Bond Company, Outlaw Bail Bonding Company, Bond Max Bail Bonding Company, James Bail Bonding Company, James Darley Esq. Law Office, Bandit Bonding Company, Blackwell’s Towing Company, South Royal Street Vacant Metal Building, South Royal Street Vacant Concrete Building, South Royal Street Vacant Metal Warehouse and Southern Fish and Oyster Company.
The report mentions available space located at Mobile Metro Jail complex as a possible replacement for the affected businesses and states that “no problems finding adequate replacement locations for these businesses are anticipated.”
It also acknowledges the more than 50-year history and family ownership of Southern Fish and Oyster Company.
“This site requires that business have river frontage or be in very close proximity to the river,” the report reads. “The state currently owns river frontage as a protective purchase. After the alignment of the required bridge is determined, sufficient surplus state property will be available to accommodate the re-establishment of this business on the river.”
Alternative B (Prime) creates only a slight shift in the path of the bridge, but it has been identified as the preferred Alternative in the report and is also preferred by the City of Mobile and Austal USA.
Unlike Alternative B, B (Prime) would not have an impact on Austal’s newly constructed administration building and would cause less of an impact on the shipbuilder’s parking lot – only affecting a quarter of the 1,000 parking spaces available.
“Without sufficient parking areas, Austal may not be able to meet future labor demands,” the report reads. “The parking situation can be improved with the construction of an on-site parking garage with an estimated construction cost of $15 million.”
The report makes no indication of how such a parking facility would be funded.
B (Prime) also avoids the Old Union Hall, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also wouldn’t interfere with any future operations that might be located at the Mobile Cruise Ship Terminal.
As for the local economy, the report suggests Alternative A would affect the least number of maritime jobs – only 78. It’s projected that B and B (Prime) could cause 97 job losses, but that’s still significantly fewer than the project 3,258 jobs affected by Alternative C.
If selected, Alternative C would also affect four residential houses and the following businesses:
Dyer Trucking Company, Mellow Yellow Kitchen Catering, Neptune’s Daughters Float Storage 1 and 2, Refined Oil Products, Merritt Oil Company, Radio Holland USA, Liz’s Bar Vacant, an Abandoned Commercial building, Gulf City Body and Trailer Works, Atlas Ship Services, Pratt’s D.E. Ship Supplies and One Our Bonding.
Because there are no other warehouse facilities in the area, the report suggests under Alternative C “it’s unlikely the Mardi Gras float storage for Neptune’s Daughters will able to continue to operate and (its current) site.”
Which Alternative is selected hinges on input from city officials, businesses, the general public and other stakeholders.
The Alabama Department of Transportation has confirmed the date and times of two public hearings for the proposed bridge project, which will also address the widening of the Bayway.
The hearings will take place from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23 at the Alabama Cruise Terminal and Monday, Sept. 29 at the Five Rivers Delta Resource Center at the same time.