A judge ruled Wednesday to grant a preliminary injunction, halting the construction of a new bridge in south Alabama because Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) director John Cooper "acted in bad faith."
After seven days of hearings in the case of Baldwin County Bridge Company, LLC (BCBC) v. John R. Cooper, in his official capacity as director of ALDOT, the judge ruled on the side of BCBC.
BCBC filed the lawsuit to stop the construction of an ALDOT bridge that operators claim would put the Beach Express toll bridge out of business. BCBC has made several accusations against Cooper and his motivation behind wanting to build a new, free bridge.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Jimmy Pool ordered Cooper to cease and desist from constructing the bridge, which Scott Bridge Company is building. Furthermore, Cooper is not allowed to take any steps with the bridge company that could directly or indirectly pursue the construction of what he called “Cooper Bridge.”
During testimony, information on traffic studies was presented by witnesses for ALDOT. The studies show the likely impact of the new bridge on Highway 59, an area ALDOT hopes to ease traffic on. However, BCBC has offered to expand lanes and give all Baldwin County residents a free pass. Judge Pool asked during the hearings if a study had been done on that scenario, and an expert witness answered no.
Cooper himself took the stand and explained his history with ALDOT and his experience on projects. He said since he was appointed director, he had been aware of traffic problems on Highway 59 in Baldwin County. Cooper claimed he approached BCBC and asked them to lower the toll, increase toll booths and add lanes. However, he said the company increased the toll, leading to toll avoidance. He said attempts to negotiate with BCBC have been unsuccessful.
In the 79-page order, Pool stated, “[E]vidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that Director Cooper has acted in bad faith towards BCBC in connection with his decision to build a new bridge.”
Ike Scott of Scott Bridge Company told 1819 News previously that the project would relieve traffic and help people escape danger during hurricane threats.
See the 79-page order here:
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