FAIRHOPE – In a letter to Baldwin and Mobile officials, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey expressed support for improved access across Mobile Bay without tolling existing routes.
In response to a letter from the chairmen of the Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Mobile and the Eastern Shore, the governor said she will ask the Alabama Department of Transportation to explore options that will reduce traffic congestion on Interstate 10 while allowing drivers to use existing roads without tolls.
“I believe revitalizing our state's infrastructure is critical to moving Alabama forward,” Ivey said in the letter. “The people of Mobile and Baldwin counties have waited far too long -- more than 20 years -- for a viable solution to the region's growing I-10 traffic congestion. A locally-supported solution must be found, and quickly, before the $125 million federal grant for this project secured by Senator (Richard) Shelby and our congressional delegation is re-directed elsewhere due to lack of progress.”
Eastern Shore MPO Chairman Jack Burrell, who is also Fairhope City Council president, said he was pleased with the governor’s response.
“I thought it was extremely kind and generous of the governor to reach out to us,” Burrell said. “We had sent her a letter about a week and a half ago and she did respond and for that we're very grateful.”
In the MPOs letter to Ivey, officials said the Mobile area is a key transportation hub being affected by increasing traffic. The interstate across Mobile Bay is now recognized as one of the most congested corridors in the country, the letter said.
“After conferring with other leaders in the area, we believe that options exist which should be explored and presented to the MPOs by ALDOT to get the project going again,” the MPO letter said. “To be clear, we’re interested in a solution that reduces congestion while allowing citizens to use all existing routes across the bay without paying any tolls.”
A previous ALDOT plan called for a new bridge across the Mobile River and expansion of the Bayway. Under the proposal, tolls would have been placed on the new bridge, Bayway and Wallace Tunnel.
The estimated cost of the project in 2019 was more than $2 billion. State officials said Alabama could not pay the cost of the project without putting tolls on the highway. Plans called for tolls of as much as $6 for a one-way trip by car.
After officials and residents expressed concerns about the economic impact of tolls, the Baldwin MPO removed the project from its Transportation Improvement Plan in 2019, making the bridge and Bayway work ineligible for federal funding.
In her letter to the MPOs, Ivey said the time had come for a cooperative effort to resume the project.
“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,” Ivey wrote in her letter. “We must continue working together at all levels of government to creatively find solutions to our most pressing infrastructure challenges.”