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A Letter to ALDOT – Re: Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project

A Letter to ALDOT – Re: Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project

May 22, 2019

ALDOT – Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project

ATTN: Matt Ericksen, P.E.

1701 I-65 West Service Road N

Mobile, Alabama 36618

Subject: Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Project No. DPI-0030(005), I-10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway, Mobile and Baldwin Counties, Alabama.

Dear Mr. Ericksen,

In March, you released and opened for comments the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement I-10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway, Mobile and Baldwin Counties, Alabama. The stated purpose of this project is to increase the capacity of I-10 to meet existing and projected future traffic volumes and to provide a more direct route for vehicles transporting hazardous materials while minimizing impacts to Mobile’s maritime industry.

Coastal Alabama Partnership (CAP) is a 501 (c)(3) private sector lead, not-for-profit organization focused on providing a platform for regional leaders to convene, collaborate, build consensus, and advocate for Coastal Alabama’s top priorities. CAP supports funding for infrastructure and transportation projects that will facilitate economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and improve the overall quality of life for all citizens and businesses in Coastal Alabama.

The I-10 River Bridge and Bayway project is included in CAP’s 2019 Regional Legislative Agenda, and is a priority project for the region. CAP supports the commitment of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) in working with public and private partners to increase capacity on Interstate 10 by building a new six-lane, cable-stayed bridge over the Mobile River and a new eight-lane, seven-mile Bayway spanning Mobile Bay.

This bridge and corresponding Bayway are crucial for Coastal Alabama, and the entire I-10 Corridor on the Gulf Coast for the following reasons and considerations:

  • The Wallace Tunnel currently averages 75,000 vehicles per day, reaching up to 100,000 vehicles during the peak tourism season. Furthermore, Traffic crossing Mobile River and Bay on Interstate 10 has more than doubled since the current facilities were built in 1970, far exceeding the planned capacity.
  • In a recent TRIP Report for Alabama (2016) –a national transportation research group—identified 50 highway projects needed in order to support Alabama’s economic growth. This report listed the Mobile I-10 corridor as the 2nd most critical project to economic growth in Alabama.
  • Transportation infrastructure is key to the continued success of the Port of Mobile. As volume increases at the Port (20% last year at APM Terminals alone), the more important the ability to move containers and cargo becomes along the east-west corridor of I-10.
  • This project will also, increase the capacity of I-10 to meet existing and predicted future traffic volumes, provide vehicles carrying hazardous materials a direct route away from downtown Mobile, and minimize impacts to Mobile’s maritime industry.

CAP, with its regional partners, supports the completion of the design phase of the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project and will continue to support ALDOT’s effort in seeking grant funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The Coastal Alabama region is experiencing tremendous growth – the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project is vital and will provide great benefits for citizens, travelers, and businesses, as well as regional and interstate commerce. To advance the delivery of the project ALDOT is utilizing a public-private partnership pairing ALDOT with a private partner to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the new Mobile River Bridge and Bayway—CAP commends ALDOT for this innovative approach to expedite the completion of this project.

Regarding project funding, your Department estimates the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project could cost approximately $2 billion. Citing the lack of United States Department of Transportation funding and state funding shortages, ALDOT determined the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project is only viable if the corridor is tolled.  These projected toll revenues will be used to cover capital costs, operation, and maintenance of the project and will not cover all project costs. ALDOT will still need to invest in the project using traditional funds or available grants.

CAP is not opposed to tolling the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project and recognizes that to complete the project, the inevitable solution may involve tolling the corridor. However, it is clear many uncertainties remain as the potential amount of a required toll; the potential the initial toll could increase over time; and the potential “cap” on the toll or the rate by which it could increase.

CAP urges ALDOT to work with our Coastal Alabama Elected Officials, Governor Ivey, our State Legislators, Federal Highway officials, Unites States Congress, and the Administration and examine all possible funding solutions prior to the final decisions regarding tolling for the Mobile River Bridge Project. We must also closely examine the potential burden tolling the corridor will have on citizens of Coastal Alabama who will bear a disproportionate portion of the project cost. CAP will not support a tolling rate that will cause economic detriment and hardships for citizens and businesses in our region. Increased traffic in our local municipalities from toll avoidance issues, which increase congestion on alternate routes, must be adequately considered.

CAP supports ALDOT, its public and private partners to complete the long discussed, and much needed Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project, but believes we must take advantage of this opportunity to ensure the continued success and growth of the Coastal Alabama Region.

Sincerely,

Wiley Blankenship

President/CEO

Coastal Alabama Partnership

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251-436-8822 • 450 St. Louis Street • Mobile, AL 36602 • P.O. Box 881 • Mobile, AL 36601 • contact@coastalalabama.org