Officials are pushing to cut the I-10 project timeline

Officials are pushing to cut the I-10 project timeline

Points Highlighted:

  • The Alabama Department of Transportation provided an updated Monday into a project that is divided into three construction phases. The state is expected to continue providing routine updates to public officials as the project slowly moves ahead.

  • But the costs of doing so is considerably more, with initial estimates for replacing the entire Bayway at $1.2 billion. And with funding still an unknown, it’s unclear how much of the project can be completed at once.

“If you talk about the phases spanning 15-plus years, people are asking, ‘Do we really have 15-20 years?’” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “What will gridlock look like every single day?”

“The letter asks ALDOT if (they) can come up with another way to fund Phases 1 or 2 or all three phases together,” said Kevin Harrison, director of transportation with the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, which oversees the Mobile MPO.

Representatives for the Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Mobile and Baldwin counties submitted letters on September 1, requesting ALDOT to examine ways to combine the project’s three phases. Part of the concern is the long timeline the divided up project will take, and the impact that increased congestion along the I-10 Bayway will have on the region.

Tolling options

Financing for only one phase of the project is identified – the $675 million eastbound span for a new bridge over the Mobile River and restriping of the entire Bayway from two lanes to three.

The initial phase also includes redeveloping two I-10 interchanges in Mobile County at Broad and Virginia streets into diverging diamond designs similar to what is at Alabama State Route 181 and I-10 in Baldwin County.

“I like it,” said Harrison about the introduction of the diverging diamond concepts into the project. “It seems to be working on 181. It saves time. It reduces congestion.” The I-10 Phase 1 funding includes the following:

$125 million from a federal “Infrastructure for Rebuilding America” grant secured by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby in 2019.$225 non-federal state subsidy$300 million from a federal loan/bonds that will be repaid with toll revenue. The project’s toll is expected to be assessed on semi-tractor trailers and on vehicles that utilize the bridge. Existing routes along the Spanish Fort Causeway and through the Wallace Tunnel, will remain toll free.

ALDOT is currently performing in-depth studies on the toll scenarios. The initial plan called for tolls on trucks only, but that has since been expanded to include other vehicles that utilize the new bridge. The project’s second phase is expected to cost $500 million and will include westbound span for the new bridge.

The third phase will be more expensive and involved because it calls for a complete replacement of the I-10 Bayway with a new six-lane bridge that would be constructed “well above the 100-year flood elevation” to meet federal guidelines. The $1.2 billion project, according to the MPO’s planning document on the project, requires tolling. Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis said he supports moving the project from “Virginia Street to Buc-ee’s,” in reference to extending the interstate’s improvements further east toward the Alabama-Florida state line.

Davis said he supports having a tolled system assessing fees on motorists as long as “locals have a free option.” The previous $2.1 billion I-10 plan crumbled in 2019 under criticism from local officials over the lack of free options for Mobile and Baldwin county motorists. The previous plan did not assess a toll on utilizing the Causeway, but it did assess a toll on the Wallace Tunnel and the new bridge, which meant anyone driving along I-10 would be assessed a toll.

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