County Commission opposes toll plan

By GUY BUSBY
Posted 8/9/19

BAY MINETTE – The Baldwin County Commission went on record Tuesday asking the Alabama Department of Transportation to reconsider plans for tolls over the Mobile River and Mobile Bay that they said …

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County Commission opposes toll plan

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BAY MINETTE – The Baldwin County Commission went on record Tuesday asking the Alabama Department of Transportation to reconsider plans for tolls over the Mobile River and Mobile Bay that they said would hurt the region’s economy.

Commissioners approved a resolution asking ALDOT look at ways to find more money for the Interstate 10 bridge and look at ways to change the plans for the project to cut costs. ALDOT has proposed a toll of $6 a trip to cross from Daphne to Mobile when the bridge and expanded Bayway are completed around 2025.

The Daphne City Council also voted Monday night to pass a resolution opposing the toll proposal.

In previous interviews, ALDOT Director John Cooper said the state does not have enough money to build the $2.1 billion project without seeking funding from tolls.

The county resolution passed Tuesday said the bridge is needed, but the tolls will hurt residents and businesses.

“While the County Commission does not oppose the construction of a new bridge to assist with traffic issues and to prepare for anticipated growth in the area, the County Commission has great concern regarding the financial impact the proposed toll may have on individuals traveling from Mobile and Baldwin counties for work,” the resolution said.

The statement went on to say that the tolls would have a major impact on businesses and future development and growth on both sides of Mobile Bay.

Three audience members who addressed the commission after the vote said they did not agree with one phrase in the resolution that called for ALDOT to find ways to “alleviate or greatly reduce the tolls necessary for this project.” All three said they opposed any tolls to cross the bay and that the commission should as well.

Jonathan Armstrong, a former county commissioner, said the phrase “greatly reduce” should be removed from the resolution and the commission make a statement opposing any toll. “Either you’re for a toll or you’re not for a toll,” he said.

Commissioners said they did not support a toll, but that the county must work with the state. They said the resolution would help with efforts to resolve the issue.

“We’d like to have no tolls, but this is just the beginning of discussions,” Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood said.

Commission Chairman Charles “Skip” Gruber said the state and local residents should not be paying for an interstate highway project, but that with the U.S. government’s debt level that seemed to be the only way to pay for the project.

“I think the federal government should be paying for this whole thing. It’s an interstate highway, but they’re not doing it,” Gruber said. “They’re turning more of this over to the states to handle it. The money they do get from the federal government goes to maintain the interstate system that they have.”