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Source : i10 Highway
December 15, 2022
Author : Alex Bustillos
Alabama's Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has put a $2.7 billion Mobile Bridge and Bayway Interstate 10 (I-10) project back on its agenda. This comes more than two years after toll pricing and other concerns halted the ambitious plan for a new bridge and modernized causeway.
Edward Austin, ALDOT's chief engineer, has confirmed in a letter to the state's Metropolitan Planning Organizations that ALDOT is “moving forward with this project.”
Some of the funds will come from a $125 million federal grant obtained in 2019 through the office of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby and $250 million in dedicated state financing. ALDOT has also applied for a $500 million MEGA grant.
Recent changes in federal law and regulatory criteria may allow the project to qualify for an even larger loan under the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA).
The TIFIA finance support is available for approved regional and national projects. TIFIA credit aid is frequently provided in more favorable conditions than in the financial market, making it feasible to get finance for required projects that would otherwise be unavailable.
Without additional funding, the entire project relies on financing, including $1.2 billion in bonds and another $1.1 billion in federal loans under the TIFIA program. Toll proceeds would be used to repay the loans.
The expansion should help significantly with major delays that drivers have faced.
Austin's letter did not mention tolls, although they are critical for producing income to offset the debt. ALDOT operates under a framework agreed upon earlier this year by the two MPOs, which set the toll at $2.50 for a one-way trip over the infrastructure. A $40 monthly discount will also be available. However, an ALGO Pass will be required to secure those rates.
The proposed project comprises the construction of a new 215-foot-tall Mobile River bridge as well as a new 7.5-mile Bayway between downtown Mobile and Daphne, as well as the dismantling of the existing Bayway. Its goal is to alleviate bottlenecks on the I-10 Bayway, which can stretch for miles during peak travel hours during the summer and holidays.
ALDOT intends to expand Interstate 10's capacity to match current and future traffic levels while limiting impacts on Mobile's billion-dollar marine industry and providing a more direct route for trucks hauling hazardous goods across the Mobile River. Currently, these vehicles must exit I-10 via the Mobile Central Business District. According to ALDOT spokesperson James Gordon, construction should begin in 2024 and be completed in 2028.
“Today’s announcement is a clear signal that the State of Alabama is serious about building this bridge,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “Ultimately, we are further along in this process than at any point before and have a clear path toward solving the worst bottleneck on the I-10 corridor.”
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