The first of two meetings to discuss the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project was held Tuesday, May 7, 2019 in Spanish Fort. ALDOT hosted the public hearing and released new virtual renderings of the plans. ALDOT officials said tolls are about the only way to move forward with the two-billion-dollar project. Many who live and work in Baldwin County are reacting with frustration.
“We’ve suffered with this tunnel traffic all these years, the locals especially from out of town traffic going through it and if anybody deserves a break, it’s the locals,” said Daphne resident, Larry Busch.
Larry Busch is not alone in how he feels. Many Baldwin County residents feel they’ll end up paying the lion’s share of the bridge’s cost. Some go back and forth a couple times per day and even with discounts for local travelers, they’re afraid it will hit them hard in the pocketbook.
“I don’t know what the solution is with commuters because them having to pay, them having to pay whatever the toll is going to be each day is absolutely ridiculous and that’s how they’re trying to make a living,” Daphne resident, Rebecca Dean said.
ALDOT listened to comments and concerns citizens had during the hearing at the Spanish Fort Community Center. A new, virtual versions of the plans was unveiled. The latest version puts the bridge at 215 feet, which would make it the highest bridge of its kind in the US. The project would include an expansion of Interstate 10 to six lanes from Virginia Street in Mobile to Highway 98 in Daphne with a total price tag of just more than two billion dollars.
ALDOT officials said because of limited funding options, it’s almost inevitable that tolls will have to be put in place to help pay the bill. For people like Debbie Turner who commutes daily from Mobile County to Baldwin County for work, there are real concerns.
“Being a waitress, I live in Satsuma and work in Spanish Fort. Some days I come over here twice a day so that would be four trips of me paying that toll,” Turner explained. “I think it would affect me financially a good bit.”
To put it in perspective, if you drove through the tolls the minimum of 21 times per month to get a 15 percent discount off the lowest rate that’s been discussed of three dollars, you’d take a hit of $642.60 over the year. Your next chance to voice your opinion on the project is Thursday, May 9, 2019 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the Mobile Civic Center.