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The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) responded to the lawsuit filed against them by the Baldwin County Bridge Company (BCBC) over a debacle surrounding Orange Beach's Foley Beach Express and the new Intercoastal Waterway project.
The BCBC has operated the Foley Beach Express for 22 years. The toll bridge is an alternate route for beachgoers who otherwise would have to take Alabama Highway 59.
BCBC was previously negotiating with ALDOT to add additional lanes to reduce the traffic burden on Highway 59 during the summer.
According to BCBC's attorney Joe Epsy, the bridge company had already agreed to add the additional lanes and provide all Baldwin County residents with free passage, all at zero cost to the state.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon explained to 1819 News earlier this month that the bridge company recently proposed a "noncompete clause" after ALDOT started demanding money. This would prevent the state from building a nearby public bridge for an established number of years after the agreement. That was when the state decided to build a bridge of its own.
On September 1, ALDOT announced it would be constructing the Intercoastal Waterway, a toll-free alternative a little over a mile west of BCBC's bridge.
On Friday, Espy filed suit against both ALDOT and ALDOT director John Cooper in Montgomery County Circuit Court, accusing the agency of trying to force them out of business.
ALDOT's Media and Community Relations Bureau chief Tony Harris said that ADLOT wants to build the Intercoastal Waterway to reduce traffic.
Harris accused the toll bridge of being "foreign-owned" and said that the lawsuit from the bridge company would "waste taxpayer money" and "only exacerbate the traffic problems on the Gulf Coast."
"For years, ALDOT engaged in good faith negotiations, but the toll bridge company refused to agree to any requirements to reduce traffic congestion and instead demanded a 50-year guarantee that no other bridge would be built in the area, regardless of need," Harris said. "This company wanted a promise that their monopoly, which has never worked, would be protected for another 50 years. It's hard to imagine a worse idea."
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