Statement from Mayor Robert Craft concerning negotiations between  ALDOT and Beach Express Toll Bridge owners

Submitted
Posted 8/4/21

The current owners of the Beach Express Toll Bridge have been negotiating with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) on various alternative plans to ALDOT’s proposed free bridge …

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Statement from Mayor Robert Craft concerning negotiations between  ALDOT and Beach Express Toll Bridge owners

Posted

The current owners of the Beach Express Toll Bridge have been negotiating with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) on various alternative plans to ALDOT’s proposed free bridge since they purchased the toll bridge in 2018. ALDOT was scheduled to release bids on the new bridge today, Friday, July 30. I am extremely disappointed to learn through a statement released by Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon that this project has been delayed, once again, after three years of fruitless negotiations with these new owners. The transportation issues we are working to solve impact Gulf Shores as much as any community and it is totally unacceptable that we are not directly involved when decisions like this are made.

On average, over 50,000 cars cross the W.C. Holmes Bridge in Gulf Shores each day while only 11,000 cars pay to cross the Beach Express Toll Bridge. This is not because the toll bridge can’t handle more vehicles or Highway 59 is a quicker route. This is only because drivers are clearly choosing to use a free public route overpaying a private toll. ALDOT’s proposed free bridge will immediately relieve traffic congestion on Highway 59 and enhance public safety by providing a third access on and off the island that will also serve as an evacuation route.

The Baldwin County Bridge Company (BCBC) and the City of Orange Beach earn millions each year off the toll bridge operation so it is obvious why they are attempting to broker a deal to keep ALDOT from building a new free bridge. Additionally, according to Mayor Kennon’s statement, this proposal would allow BCBC to expand their private toll bridge and include a “substantial payment” to the City of Orange Beach. This proposal may be in the best financial interest of BCBC and the City of Orange Beach, but placing coastal Alabama’s transportation fate in the hands of a private toll bridge company is not a good deal for the people who live and work here or the millions who visit Alabama’s beaches each year.

ALDOT’s new bridge is designed, the right-of-way has been acquired, permits are in hand and the funding is in place. The new owners of the toll bridge have had a chance to provide an acceptable solution for the last three years and have failed to do so. The time for negotiating has passed. It is time for ALDOT to build the new bridge. Our residents, visitors and Alabama’s beaches are depending on it.