Eastern Shore MPO sets hearing on Bayway expansion


FAIRHOPE – Coastal Alabama residents will have a chance to discuss proposals for a new Mobile River bridge and changes to the Interstate 10 Bayway during public hearings in Fairhope and Mobile in May.

The Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold a public hearing at the Fairhope Satellite Courthouse on May 19. The meeting will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the County Commission chambers on the second floor. The MPO is scheduled to vote on adding the bridge project to construction plans at a special meeting on June 9. That meeting is tentatively scheduled to be at Daphne City Hall, Sarah Hart Sislak, MPO coordinator, said.

Among the issues to be discussed is whether to proceed with the first phase of the bay project, a trucks-only toll bridge over the Mobile River and adding third lanes to the eastbound and westbound sections of the I-10 Bayway by painting new lines. Another option is to move forward with all three phases of the project, including a new bridge for all vehicles and a larger elevated highway over Mobile Bay at a cost estimated at $2.1 billion in 2019.

Members of the MPO will also decide whether to put the project on the group’s Long-Range Transportation Plan, a list of projects that are needed, but not yet set for construction, or the Transportation Improvement Plan, or TIP, that calls for the projects to be built on a set schedule.

Fairhope City Council President Jack Burrell, chairman of the Eastern Shore MPO, said members want to hear from the public before making a decision.

“It would give the public time to weigh in,” Burrell said. “And we may ask or may be asking you to vote on not only putting that on the Long-Range Transportation Plan but also on the TIP.”

Matt Ericksen, Alabama Department of Transportation division engineer, said placing the project on the plans will allow engineers to start the studies and design work needed for construction.

“This is a concept at this point,” Ericksen said. “We need to get it on the Long-Range Plan and on the TIP so we can do the studies that we need. There will be continued interaction with the MPOs through the design process, So, we'll have a public hearing for the Long-Range Transportation amendment. We'll get the comments and then, as the process moves forward, ALDOT and the design process and the environmental process will also have public comment periods.”

Contacted after the April 28 Eastern Shore MPO meeting, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, chairman of the Mobile MPO, said that organization will hold a public meeting on May 12 and a special meeting to vote on the plan on either June 2 or June 9.

“At that time, we will be trying to further the conversation about specifically what goes on the TIP,” Stimpson said. “There’s some uncertainty about what exactly will go on the TIP.”

Burrell said having public hearings on different dates would allow Baldwin and Mobile residents to attend both discussions.

“I'm sure that there may be people from the Eastern Shore that want their opinions known in Mobile and there are also people in Mobile that want their opinions known on the Eastern Shore,” Burrrell said. “I think it gives people an opportunity to participate in both hearings as well.”

In earlier meetings, Eastern Shore MPO members said any plan would have to provide a way for drivers to cross Mobile Bay without paying a toll. In 2019, ALDOT planned to place tolls on the new bridge as well as the existing Wallace Tunnel and the improved Bayway.

In August 2019, members of the Eastern Shore MPO voted to remove that project from the organization’s TIP, making the work ineligible for federal funding.