The latest iteration of the Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge & Bayway project has the support of three-quarters of those surveyed in a recent survey commissioned by the Coastal Alabama Partnership.
A whopping 83% of those polled said they believe “new and expanded infrastructure” is needed to reduce congestion, increase road safety and improve hurricane escape routes. Less than 10% said the existing roads were acceptable.
“This poll shows that Southern Alabamians know there is a need for new infrastructure and want elected officials to provide a solution,” said Wiley Blankenship, president and CEO of Coastal Alabama Partnership.
The survey was conducted by Chism Strategies of Jackson, Mississippi, and took place December 17-19. It included responses from 455 registered voters in Mobile and Baldwin counties, with 60% identifying themselves as voters who will vote in next year’s Republican primary. Most of those surveyed – 53% – were female and 70% were white.
The ballot took place following the unveiling by the Mobile and East Coast metropolitan planning organizations of a new agreed framework for the I-10 project.
Under DFO’s plans, which still require clearance from the Alabama Department of Transportation, the following are in play:
- The I-10 bridge and Bayway would be charged at an amount not to exceed $ 2.50 per car
- The toll would only be assessed on newly constructed roads. The existing Wallace Tunnel, the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge and the Bankhead Tunnel would remain toll-free. The Spanish causeway of the fort would also remain an open road.
- The whole project will be carried out at one time and over a period of five years instead of a piecemeal project that could span several decades. As such, the total price is estimated to be at least $ 2.1 billion.
- Each DFO believes state and federal governments should contribute “significant funding” to any I-10 solution. So far, the project has a $ 125 million federal grant from Infrastructure for the Reconstruction of America (INFRA) which must be approved for construction by next September. The state has committed $ 225 million. A federal loan of $ 300 million is also available which would be repaid with the toll revenues.
The poll shows that 80% think the new plan should include toll-free options to cross Mobile Bay, 73% say it is important that tolls be removed after project debt is paid off, and 65% think it is ‘It is “very important” to have the project built in one fell swoop rather than spread over 25 years.
The poll did not ask respondents if they supported the proposed toll amount of $ 2.50.
“Mobile and Baldwin counties support this framework because it both protects free routes and provides much needed new infrastructure,” Blankenship said. “This proposal enjoys overwhelming support and is clearly needed for our region. Now is the time to start and end this much needed project. “
Coastal Alabama Partnership has previously conducted surveys of the project’s update iterations, including one that ended in late March and showed support for a project funded largely by a truck-only toll. But the truck bridge proposal was not given further consideration after objections were raised by the trucking industry.
While opposition to the toll still exists on Facebook, including an anti-toll Facebook page administered by listener Jim Zeigler, some previous opponents of the project appear to be somewhat favorable to the latter framework.
Lou Campomenosi, who runs the Common Sense campaign snack in Baldwin County, said he believes the $ 2.50 toll could be met if there is a provision requiring the toll to be extinguished. Opposition to the 2019 surface toll by Campomenosi and his organization largely out of concern over a proposed $ 6 vehicle toll to use the Bayway, including the Wallace Tunnel. In addition, the grassroots organization opposed ALDOT’s interest in using a public-private partnership to fund the entire project.
“I think” must “force them into a commitment they cannot walk away from,” Campomenosi said, referring to the wording of a deal that would ensure the toll is removed once the bonds are paid off. “I think that’s a selling point and an important point.”
Campomenosi said that “it remains to be seen” whether the public will accept a lower toll.
“The framework appears to be achievable,” he said. “But there are issues that remain to be addressed.”
Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis, who is a member of the Eastern Shore MPO, said he agreed with a lower toll amount if the Wallace Tunnel remained toll-free.
“It was a problem,” he said. “They were going to pay for the existing tunnel and charge everyone $ 6. Nothing is fair about it.
The previous plan did not include tolls for the Bankhead Tunnel or the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge. The Causeway would also have remained virgin.
Davis said he supports the Bayway toll so that out-of-state motorists help pay for the new project.
“I want the people going from Pensacola to Houston who are benefiting from (the new I-10 project) to help pay for it,” he said.