Both eastbound and westbound traffic heading along Interstate 10 in Alabama face backups going through Mobile's Wallace Tunnel in the summer months, and this Fourth of July weekend will be no exception.
However, transportation policymakers at the state and local levels are currently at work, hashing out a solution to this problem.
Last month, the Metropolitan Planning Organizations for Mobile and the Eastern Shore unveiled details of their proposal for a new $2.7 billion bridge, up from $2.1 billion in 2019, including tolls for some travelers.
ALGO pass holder commuters will be charged $2.50 each way or $40 a month for unlimited use. Non-ALGO pass holder commuters will be charged a whopping $5.50 each way.
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine), whose State Senate District 32 is adjacent to the proposed bridge's path, called the proposal "improved" from the failed 2019 plan during an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5 on Friday. However, he questioned some aspects of it.
"It definitely gets the 'most improved' award," Elliott said. "I mean, we've gone from this $6 toll down to $2.50. There's now a cap of $40 a month if you get this, which is less than a dollar a trip for daily commuters. All of that is getting down into the much more reasonable range. I'm still amazed at the amount of the cost of this project. It is exorbitant. You know, the I-10 bridge over Lake Ponchartrain into New Orleans was about $895 million, and that's a huge elevated bridge deck that goes on for seven miles -- one of the longest in the country. And to think we're about to spend $2.7 [billion] on something, it's unbelievable.
"And I think we need to look continuously at cost savings on that project. I'm also concerned this project depends really from a funding standpoint on a $500 million mega-grant from the feds. I think the likelihood of that, while there's some likelihood and I certainly think the feds should invest that money here -- that's a big chunk of money depending on the Biden administration right now, and I sure wouldn't count on that."
The Baldwin County lawmaker also said Alabamians should not have to pay the toll given the state taxpayer expenditures on the bridge. He hinted at possible income tax deductions for commuters facing the toll expense, as he had proposed in the past.
"Lastly, I think no matter what the toll is proposed that Alabamians shouldn't have to pay that toll -- that Alabamians are investing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on the front-end should not have to pay when they have made an investment like that. And I will continue to look at legislation to make sure that we try to offset the toll that is charged to Alabamians."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.
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