MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Daily commuters across a planned Mobile River bridge could end up getting a discount from tolls by buying a $90 monthly pass, officials told AL.com on Tuesday.
Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper told the website that the $90 pass for cars, pickup trucks and motorcycles, would give motorists a break from a $6 per-trip toll. In addition, people who use the bridge more than five times a month but don’t buy the pass, would get a 15 percent discount.
Tony Harris, a spokesman for the department, told FOX10 News that the details of the discount have not been finalized. He said officials gave print news outlets a preview Tuesday and would brief television stations and the public Wednesday morning.
State officials hope to build a new bridge to provide additional capacity for cars that often get jammed at the Wallace Tunnel on Interstate 10. In addition to the bridge – which would be nearly has tall as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Mobile project involves replacing the existing Bayway with a taller and wider crossing that could handle more vehicles and be safe from hurricanes.
But tolls have dominated the discussion locally ever since ALDOT officials revealed that the plan included tolls of $3 to $6 per trip. With little federal money available, Cooper and other officials have said there is no way to finance the $2.1 billion project without tolls.
Under ALDOT’s plan, drivers would be tolled in segments between the Virginia Street exit in Mobile and Daphne. Drivers exiting at different points – to the Causeway, for instance – be pay less than those traveling the entire length. Drivers also pay a toll to use the Wallace Tunnel, although the Causeway and Bankhead Tunnel would remain free.
To keep traffic moving freely, the system would not include physical toll plazas. Instead, drivers would be charged either from transponder devices they buy for their cars or through a system that takes pictures of license plates and then sends bill through the mail.
The tolling plan has sparked opposition from elected officials, including state Auditor Jim Zeigler and the Mobile County state legislative delegation.
State officials hope to sign a contract later this year with a private company that would build the Bayway and bridge and then operate the system and collect the tolls. The projected opening is in 2025.