The latest plan for a new bridge and revamped Interstate 10 to ease traffic congestion on the Gulf Coast at Mobile has been unveiled.
For more than a century now, travelers have faced challenges making their way back and forth between Mobile County to Baldwin County, across the Mobile Bay.
Before the vertical-lift Cochrane Bridge and the Mobile Bay Causeway opened in the 1920s, crossing from Mobile to Baldwin County's Eastern Shore required ferry service to Daphne or Fairhope. In the 1940s, the Bankhead Tunnel opened, offering a direct path to the existing Causeway.
In the 1970s, the Wallace Tunnel opened for Interstate 10, which carries most of the traffic to and from the existing I-10 Bayway.
Finally, in the 1990s came the completion of the then-$69 million Africatown-Cochrane Bridge that replaced the old Cochrane bridge. That offered an alternative for commuters making their way from Prichard and north Mobile County to Baldwin County and for truck traffic.
Friday, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) revealed its much-anticipated approach to what it hopes to be a longer-lasting solution to the problem.
According to an announcement from the chairmen of the Eastern Shore and Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs,) a plan for a new Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project includes the following:
A comprehensive plan with a new Mobile River Bridge and a new Bayway that meets capacity and safety needs and can be built in five years
Free, no-toll routes on the Causeway, Wallace Tunnel, Bankhead Tunnel, and Africatown Bridge
Tolls of $2.50 or less for passenger vehicles and $18.00 or less for trucks
Toll revenue to be used only to pay down project debt, with tolling to end once the debt is paid off
All infrastructure to be owned and operated by the state of Alabama, with no private concessionaire
A contribution of at least $250 million in state funding, in addition to $125 million in federal funding through an INFRA Grant
Reportedly, the plan also includes an unlimited use option of $40 per month intended for daily commuters traveling between Mobile and Baldwin Counties.
The report blamed inflation for the $2.7 billion price tag, an increase from the 2019 $2.1 billion estimate.
"This is a great day for Baldwin County," Eastern Shore MPO Chair and Fairhope City Councilmember Jack Burrell said in a statement. "Baldwin County is the fastest-growing county in Alabama, and this plan addresses some of our most important needs. I'm thrilled that this plan creates an option for commuters to Mobile to cross on a new bridge for under $1 each way. We will continue to work toward new federal funding to lower costs on Alabama taxpayers and drivers as this project moves forward."
"Moving forward with this plan is a milestone in the history of Mobile and South Alabama," Mobile MPO Chair and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson added. "This bridge is a key component to Mobile's future growth – it connects workers to jobs and businesses to new customers. Building this bridge will be a cornerstone of Mobile's future success."
Also, according to the report, construction would begin in late 2023 and be complete by 2028.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.
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