MOBILE, Ala (WALA) – There was a heated meeting on Wednesday between the Alabama Department of Transportation and local lawmakers, some of the tense exchanges playing out live on FOX10 News at 5 and on Facebook.
It all comes down to the lawmakers being fired up about tolls.
ALDOT’s Transportation Director, John Cooper, told FOX10 News Reporter Tyler Fingert before it started he was not going to speak, that was until the tone of the meeting quickly became hostile.
“The purpose of this meeting was to ask questions and I’m not going to apologize for asking tough questions,” said State Representative Matt Simpson. “The project went from $850 million to $2.1 billion and I think it's fair to just ask questions, ‘how?’.
About 15 lawmakers showed up at the invitation of Governor Kay Ivey.
The question that dominated the conversation, why the Bayway has to be rebuilt. ALDOT said it is a legal requirement.
“We need to figure out is it practical,” Simpson said. “If it's not practical to raise the Bayway, why would you add an additional $1.3 billion, if something is not mandated, if it's not necessary.”
“It is the law if the federal official who is determining whether you get a permit thinks it's the law,” Cooper said.
The meeting lasted more than three hours, as ALDOT consultants broke down every aspect of the $2.1 billion project that has been in the works for more than 20 years.
The goal of the meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“Putting a bridge that can literally divide us where people are gonna say ‘you know what I’m going to go find a job in Pensacola, I’m going to shop in Pensacola’ or people in Mobile say ‘you know what I’m going to go over to Mississippi and do what I can,’ it can divide our area,” Simpson said.
“There's fear of the project,” said State Representative Margie Wilcox. “Fear for our citizens and concern for our citizens and that comes out emotionally anytime you have emotion involved you're going to have raised voices.”
Some of the lawmakers are hoping to be able to get a vote on the project so down the road if they want to kill it they can.
The ALDOT Director said he will ask the governor to put that in writing.