The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has paused work on a long-awaited project to connect Mobile to Daphne and relieve traffic between Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

Jack Burrell, the chairman of the Eastern Shore MPO, confirmed to 1819 News the temporary hold is in place so ALDOT can study rising costs and possible risks for the over $2.5 billion project.

“They’re trying to get us the best deal,” said Burrell. “We don’t want to be paying for this bridge forever. In lieu of any federal funding that we had hoped to receive – and we’re still fighting for that – there’s just some unknowns and they want to dry to drill it down and drill down on the cost-savings.”

So far, plans for the project have been drawn, construction teams have been put in place, and environmental studies have been completed over a 20-year span.

Burrell said ALDOT has to ensure their numbers are not inflated and that the state is on the right track. He said he respects ALDOT for trying to save money and they’re only asking to pause the project for 60 days.

“I think they are going to assess the situation and see what can be done,” Burrell continued. “I do feel like they are negotiating in good faith and working to reduce risks, in good faith.”

Former Sen. Richard Shelby secured $125 million in federal funds for the project years ago, which is the only guarantee of federal funds. Burrell said the fact that Alabama is a red state means the state is unlikely to benefit from the feds. He said the Baltimore bridge disaster exemplifies how politics rule transportation projects in certain places.

 “As soon as that barge hit that bridge near Baltimore, the president of the United States, that day said, ‘We’re going to pay 100% to rebuild that bridge,” Burrell said. “That was the day the ship hit the bridge. So, they said, ‘To heck with you guys down there, we’ve got to fix this bridge. They do it under emergency funding measures, and I get it. I want to help them out but you won’t give me a nickel hardly down here. It’s frustrating.”

ALDOT has committed to $250 million towards the project. Burrell said the project must be paid for through toll revenue if the federal government or the state doesn’t give more funding.

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