FOLEY — Governor Kay Ivey was in Foley Wednesday for a ceremonial signing of paperwork related to the purchase of the Beach Express bridge in Baldwin County.

The signing was a showing of collaboration between the state, Baldwin County, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Foley after over a year of debate and contention over the building of a new bridge near the Beach Express bridge.

"This is good news for locals, for Alabamians across the state and for our visitors from near and far, because as we all know, there are no better beaches to visit than right here on Alabama's beautiful Gulf Coast," Ivey said. "Our coast continues to experience record growth and success and I'm proud that we are making the needed infrastructure improvements in the area that will help alleviate traffic congestion for Alabamians and those visiting our beaches."

The Baldwin County Bridge Company (BCBC), which currently owns the bridge, filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) after plans were announced to build a new bridge nearby. BCBC claimed the new bridge was too close to the toll bridge and would put them out of business. The lengthy court battle involved a Supreme Court ruling and tens of thousands in legal fees for the state. The governor herself hired attorneys for $50,000 in taxpayer dollars to conceal texts and emails connected to the decision to build the bridge.

The state's purchase of the bridge for $57 million will signify the end of that legal battle.

The purchase will officially be completed on Thursday with the signing of a purchase agreement and closing documents. At noon, the state will end tolls and establish a new traffic pattern to allow for the demolition of the toll plaza.

Gov Kay Ivey Alabama News
Gov. Kay Ivey speaks ahead of ceremonial signing of paperwork in Foley. Photo: Erica Thomas.

The new bridge is projected to be completed by the summer of 2026. At that time, ALDOT plans to make the new bridge southbound only, and the toll bridge will become northbound only. Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon has previously questioned that plan but said Wednesday he will have to wait and see if it works.

"I think we start here and if we see there's a better way to go, hopefully we'll be flexible and move with it," Kennon said.

Bridge Westview Alabama News

Kennon said he hopes ALDOT will eventually build another bridge next to the Beach Express bridge to allow for traffic in both directions.

"Well, for me, long term or short term, another bridge next to the current toll bridge would make all the sense in the world as an investment because now you've got two lanes north, two lanes south, straight through with no obstructions," he said.

Kennon pointed out that part of the original plan with BCBC was for the company to build the extra span after the number of vehicles crossing reached six million. However, Tony Harris, ALDOT's chief of communication & government relations, told 1819 News there are no plans to move forward with an extra span.

There will be two new bridges built north of the Intercoastal Waterway. The roadway connecting the new bridge to the toll bridge will need two small bridges, ALDOT Southwest Region Engineer Matt Ericksen told 1819 News. The bridges will not be far off the ground but Ericksen said they are necessary due to wetlands in the area. He said the timing on the project is such that it should be completed at the same time the new bridge will be completed. The state has not awarded a bid for that project.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft, Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich and Baldwin County Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood also participated in the ceremonial signing on Wednesday.

"This is going to help Baldwin County more than you know," said Underwood.

ALDOT director Tony Cooper did not attend the signing due to prior engagements in North Alabama.

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