State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) says the state needs to think creatively about the Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project, including cutting costs.

With just a few days left of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) 's pause to determine how to deal with rising costs due to inflation, Elliott said he isn’t expecting the federal government to help make up the difference.

“The question is, ‘What’s changed?” Elliott said. "Or what have we seen or are we just waiting on this elusive mega grant from USDOT? I don’t think that will happen but I think we need to see if that happens. If it does, great but if it doesn't, we start asking questions like, ‘Can the state of Alabama afford the scope of this project without significant federal assistance?”

The project would connect Mobile to Daphne and relieve traffic between Mobile and Baldwin Counties. The original estimate for the work was around $2.1 billion but now estimates are surpassing $4 billion, Elliott said.

Elliott, a contractor by trade, said one way to make the project cheaper is to consider removing the part of the plans to demolish the Bayway. Either way, he said the state has to consider the project's future and whether it's feasible. He said sometimes people want things and plan to buy them but eventually realize they can’t live above their means.

“The state of Alabama cannot afford this project alone,” he said. “We can't. So, the question becomes, ‘How do we get this project done so that there's some effective demonstrable improvement in traffic flow?’ Either A, with federal assistance and if we can't get the federal assistance, then how do we get this done with the money that we can spend on it?”

The federal government has already committed to paying $125 million. Jack Burrell, the chairman of the Eastern Shore MPO, told 1819 News he recently went to Washington to meet with federal officials. He said the trip went well, but there hasn’t been any official word on more money for the project.

ALDOT has committed to $250 million towards the project.

The bridge will be tolled to help pay for it over time. The proposed toll rate for locals is $2.50. Elliott said he doesn’t think it would go over well if that number went any higher.

ALDOT is expected to give an update to officials after the 60-day pause.

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