Moving forward on Bayway plans

Posted 2/18/21

After a year and a half of waiting, drivers wondering if plans for improved access across Mobile Bay were stalled forever got good news in the form of a letter from Montgomery.

Gov. Kay Ivey told …

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Moving forward on Bayway plans

Posted

After a year and a half of waiting, drivers wondering if plans for improved access across Mobile Bay were stalled forever got good news in the form of a letter from Montgomery.

Gov. Kay Ivey told the Metropolitan Planning Organizations of the Eastern Shore and Mobile that she supported moving forward with plans to build a new Interstate 10 bridge across the Mobile River and improve the I-10 Bayway.

A government official supporting highway improvements doesn’t sound surprising. However, in the summer of 2019, officials in the Mobile Bay area were objecting to state plans to impose tolls on the planned improvements. The Eastern Shore MPO finally removed the plan from its Transportation Improvement Plan.

Elimination from the TIP cut the project off from federal funding. Before the MPO meeting in Fairhope was done, Ivey said in Montgomery that the proposal was dead.

That seemed to be that. Local officials, however, continued discussions and planning. On Jan. 29, the chairs of the MPOs in Baldwin and Mobile sent Ivey a letter reaching out about restarting efforts. Ivey responded on Feb. 2.

Compromise and discussions are an essential part of the political process. In a democracy, no one side always gets things its way. People have to work things out and come up with an idea that works.

Much work remains to be done. No one knows if everyone can reach an agreement on how the improvements should be made. A new bridge is likely to be so expensive that a toll will be needed. People in the Mobile Bay area may have to accept that. Local feelings, however, are that the existing routes, the Bayway and Wallace Tunnel, should not have tolls added. State officials may have to accept that.

But people are talking again. That’s the only way to reach a solution.

The time for waiting is over. In her letter, Ivey pointed out that $125 million secured for the bridge by Sen. Richard Shelby in July 2019 could be diverted to other projects if progress isn’t made on the Mobile Bay route.

Even once plans are approved, construction will still take years and traffic increases each day on a route that is already beyond its planned capacity.

New commercial projects, such as the AIDI stores, are springing up in Baldwin County. Tourism is on the rise. The county’s population is expected to increase by about 100,000 by 2045 to more than 320,000. All of that will increase traffic across Mobile Bay.

It’s good news that everyone has taken a step. Now we just need to keep going.