Thousands of people in Mobile and Baldwin Counties do this in the morning and afternoon.

And they will likely do it again tomorrow morning and afternoon: wait in traffic driving to and from Mobile and Baldwin Counties.

The new Mobile River Bridge should help, but it won't be a free ride.

Allison Gregg with the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project said, "We're studying between the three to six dollar range, but we want to make sure its a rate that people will be able to use the bridge when its complete."

What do motorists who cross between Mobile and Baldwin Counties think about the projected cost of the toll?

FOX10 News attended a recent meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Daphne/Spanish Fort and sampled opinions.

Tom Lott said, "I don't mind tolls in general, but six dollars for me to drive from the Eastern Shore to Mobile is too much."

Rev. Richard Miller said, "I spent 25 years in New York, where it costs ten bucks to get into Manhattan, coming and going, so, three to six dollars to get to Mobile, I don't have a problem with it."

So why does the bridge need a toll?

Gregg said, "Because of finances, its plain and simple. ALDOT (the Alabama Department of Transportation) estimates this project to cost approximately two billion dollars. That's a huge price tag, and ALDOT'S operating budget for the entire state is $1.3 billion dollars."

Not all bridges in major cities have tolls.

Four years ago, FOX10 News traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to report on the Ravenel Bridge, which crosses the Cooper River connecting Charleston and the town of Mount Pleasant.

It opened in 2005, was built at a cost of $632 million dollars, and has no tolls.

The bridge was funded through a variety of sources, including what was called an "infrastructure bank" created by the South Carolina legislature.

Robert Clair, the Special Projects Engineering Director with the Ravenel Bridge, said, "The legislature put money in the infrastructure bank, allowed them to bond that money to have bigger bucks available to build projects, and some of the entities that get that money will repay so much every year, so they'll always have money to put into new projects."

State transportation officials say the Alabama legislature has passed legislation for an infrastructure bank, but the legislature hasn't reserved funds to capitalize the bank, so project officials say the Mobile bridge will be paid for by tolls, grants, loans, bonds, and partnerships with private companies.

Gregg said, "One of the ways that the private partner recoups their money is through collecting tolls and, so, if we don't have toll collection on the project, there's no project, its that simple."

Now that we know that tolls will happen, project officials say we'll know the exact rate by the end of this year.

But they say you won't pay the full toll unless you drive the whole route, which runs from the Virginia Street exit across the newly rebuilt Bayway to the Highway 98 interchange in Daphne.

This process is called segmented tolling.

Gregg said, "You only pay for the section of the roadway you're going to use, so, if I just use the Mobile River Bridge and then, and I don't use the new Bayway, I would only pay for the section I use."

The exact price will depend on how much the full amount of the toll will be.

But what if you are a frequent traveler?

Motorist Ray Moore said, "I would like to see ALDOT maybe look at locals getting a little more bit reduced fare."

Project officials said that's one idea they're studying.

And how will you pay?

Forget the idea of toll booths.

The bridge will have electronic tolling, much like SunPass, the prepaid tolling system in Florida.

There will be two ways to pay.

Gregg said, "Drivers will either have a transponder in their car that will be connected to an account, and, when they drive across the bridge, over the Bayway, they will go under a gantry, which is a large structure that will hold transponder readers and cameras. And when your car goes under the gantry, it will either 'ding' your transponder and that will go into your account and deduct your account."

Or, a camera will take a picture of your license plate.

Gregg said, "It will mail a bill to the registered owner of that vehicle so, and then, you can either mail your bill in, you can pay online. We'll have customer walk-in centers on both sides of the Bay."

But you will still be able to cross Mobile Bay for free, by taking the Causeway and Bankhead Tunnel, or the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge.

However, bridge project leaders want motorists to use the new bridge, because, among other reasons, that helps pay for the new span.

Ray Moore said he currently takes the Causeway to drive from Baldwin County to Mobile County.

Moore said, "In the mornings, I take the Causeway anyway.  I like to see the water, where people are fishing."

Marcia Gifford said she uses the Causeway, too, and plans to keep doing so.

Gifford said, "I'm very skeptical because I've lived in areas before where we've had that kind of 'almost' tax."

In any case, you don't have to start saving up your dollar bills for a while.

Officials say the tolls won't start until the project is complete.

Right now, that's expected in 2025.

The tolls on our new bridge may make you wonder, what are the most expensive tolls in the United States?

Reader's Digest did a survey in January of this year and found the most expensive bridge toll was on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia.

A round trip costs $30.

All content © 2018, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.

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