FAIRHOPE, Ala. (WALA) – Evidence of the abandoned Interstate 10 bridge and Bayway project remains in planning documents and on maps, but officials said Tuesday it’s still dead.
The Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization voted last month to remove the project from its Transportation Improvement Plan, prompting Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to pull the plug on the proposal.
So, area residents who came to Tuesday’s MPO staff meeting expressed alarm when they saw it still in the TIP document outlining transportation projects through fiscal year 2023. It describes the public-private partnership that the Alabama Department of Transportation hoped to create. It also contains the dreaded word – “tolls” – that sparked a rebellion in southwest Alabama.
“That section will come out, and it will be removed from the project list,” said Sarah Sislak, the MPO coordinator.
Sislak said that cannot formally be done until after a mandated public comment period, which ends Friday. She said MPO staff will incorporate all written comments along with those made orally by 33 people who spoke at the MPO meeting on Aug. 28.
The MPO board is scheduled to adopt the new four-year transportation plan on Sept. 25. An old map showing the bridge project was on display along with an amended version without it.
Toll opponents who showed up Tuesday were – mostly – satisfied.
“It saved me a Valium prescription,” said Daphne resident Marty McArthur, after hearing Sislak’s explanation.
Fairhope resident Celia Waters said she is about 95 percent confident that the toll proposal has been defeated.
“I’m always vigilant,” she said.
ALDOT’s vision was for a six-lane bridge rising 215 feet over the Mobile River feeding onto a new eight-lane Bayway that would have been higher above Mobile Bay than the current version. But the $2.1 billion cost would have meant tolls of up to $6 for a one-way trip.
The plan sparked an unprecedented level of civic engagement. In addition to the 33 speakers at last month’s meeting, Sislak said she has received more than 60 comments so far. By contrast, she said, the MPO typically gets one or two public comments on transportation improvement plans.
The bridge by far would have been the most expensive transportation project on the Eastern Shore over the next four years.
With that gone, the most expensive project in the four-year plan will be the next phase of a long-term process of widening Alabama 181. The Transportation Improvement Plan contains $8.5 million for the project. That includes a little more than $5.1 million to acquire rights of way and $3.4 million for utility work.
Sislak said actual construction to expand from two lanes to four from Malbis to Baldwin County 32 falls outside the four-year planning window.