Three hearings are scheduled this week in the case of the Baldwin County Bridge Company (BCBC) v. John Cooper, the director of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). The newest defendant named in the case, Scott Bridge Company, is the company chosen by ALDOT to build the new bridge, and a quick search of campaign contributions with the Secretary of State's office shows a connection to state leaders.
BCBC filed the lawsuit on Oct. 22, 2022, claiming a new bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway could bankrupt the company because it currently operates the toll bridge in the same area. BCBC claims Cooper acted in bad faith when deciding to build a new bridge.
"BCBC intends to show that Director Cooper's stated rationale for a new bridge was a sham designed to hide his motive of putting BCBC out of business and achieving his unrelated agenda of providing a pet development project to a single town, Gulf Shores, that has nothing to do with alleviating traffic on the Highway 59 Bridge," a new filing in court states.
Cooper is trying to block evidence that includes communications between his and Gov. Kay Ivey's offices. His team does not want texts or emails allowed in court due to "executive or deliberative process privileges."
"The governor's legal team is working to formally state her position, and that will be done the right way and the most transparent way – in court," Ivey's communications director Gina Maiola previously told 1819 News.
In opposition to that position, attorneys for BCBC claimed Cooper "has something to hide." They want conversations on how officials came to the decision to build a new bridge to be made public. 1819 News called ALDOT's Tony Harris for comment leading up to the hearing and to respond to the allegations against Cooper, but that call has not been returned.
BCBC has no claims against Scott Bridge Company, Inc., and the company is named in a lawsuit simply because it won a bid contest to build the new bridge. Scott Bridge Company is listed as a foreign corporation with the Secretary of State's Office but is not foreign-owned. The business started in Thomasville, Georgia in 1933 and was brought to Alabama in 1957.
Scott Bridge Company has been generous in campaign contributions. Direct cash contributions to campaigns and political organizations from the company have added up to over $90,000. Ivey's campaign has received $20,000 of that. The company has not commented to 1819 News on the lawsuit or its political contributions.
BCBC is listed as a domestic LLC out of Daphne and has an office in Wetumpka. The company was formed through private donations in 1996 when the owners discovered the need for a new bridge the state could not afford. The company 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. Dutch fund Manager DIF acquired the company in 2018 as part of a $220 million package acquisition with four other toll bridge assets.
Supporters of a new, 75-foot-tall bridge by Scott Bridge Company say the bridge would relieve traffic and expedite hurricane evacuation operations.
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