The issue of tolls on the new Mobile River Bridge was front and center Monday as Governor Kay Ivey spoke in Orange Beach.
The governor did not mention tolls in her speech, but answered several questions on the subject afterwards.
Governor Ivey spoke to the Economic Development Association of Alabama summer conference in Orange Beach and, afterwards, was asked her opinion of the ALDOT toll proposal for the bridge.
She said, "I want to work with people to find viable solutions so this project can go forward. It's a needed project. It has been in the works for 22 years. I know we've got to find a way that's reasonable and viable."
I asked if the governor thought six dollars was reasonable for a toll.
She said, "I'm looking at all options. If we can get it lower, that's what we need to do. If we can have no tolls, that would be fine, but we have to find a way to pay for it."
The governor was also asked about criticism that she set the date for the upcoming Bridge and Toll Authority meeting on the same days that Fairhope and Spanish Fort were holding elections on tax referendums.
She said, "I didn't have a clue about those potential conflicts, but it was important that we get this group together to lay out all the facts, to see of any other possible solutions people want to talk about."
The governor also asked if she could see a scenario where tolls are not necessary for the project.
The governor said, "I think everybody would be happy if there were no toll at all, but we have to find a way to pay for the bridge. What do you suggest?"
Among those attending the conference was Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day.
He said state leaders need to keep looking for different funding sources before making a final decision on a toll.
Day said, "Emergency evacuation funds, federal funds for emergency evacuation, other things, might get $200 million here, $200 million there. You've already gotten another $150 million from other sources. Next thing you know, you've got some more money to cut that toll in half or further."
Other people at the conference had thoughts on tolls.
One said, "I feel like our taxes should pay for the infrastructure and we shouldn't have to have a toll on it, because it will affect the commerce going back and forth. I wouldn't shop as much."
Another said, "I hate it. Six dollars is a lot of money. Might not be anything else they can do, but I want to keep trying."