Mobile MPO approves Alabama I-10 truck-only toll bridge
June 3, 2021
Despite objections from stakeholders and residents of affected communities, the Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization gave the Mobile River Truck Bridge the green light to move forward.
During a meeting on Wednesday, June 2, the organization voted unanimously to proceed with a $725 million plan that includes the Mobile River Truck Bridge. The plan will reduce congestion on Interstate 10 by forcing truckers to use the truck-only bridge. Truckers will foot the bill with a $15 toll.
In previous versions of the projects, there were no plans for passenger vehicle tolls.
However, the latest amendment states that the Alabama Department of Transportation has “preliminarily considered” other toll plans, including tolling other vehicles that use the Mobile River Truck Bridge.
If that were to happen, tolls for passenger vehicles would be no more than $2. ALDOT is reviewing toll scenarios and is expected to present a final toll plan or toll plan options at future public meetings.
Wednesday’s vote puts the project into the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s long- and short-range plans. That allows local and state officials to move forward with seeking federal funding.
Plans for the Mobile River Truck Bridge still need to cross a few more hurdles. The Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization must also approve of the plan. That vote is scheduled for Wednesday, June 9. If approved, the project will go to ALDOT for consideration into Alabama’s short-range transportation plan. Once approved, construction of the bridge can begin as soon as 2022-23 and completed in 2026.
The project is the latest attempt to secure federal funding worth $125 million. A proposal in 2019 included a $2 billion project that would toll all motorists. That plan was struck down, and Gov. Kay Ivey instructed officials to find a plan that will solve the congestion issue, secure the federal funding and leave existing routes toll free. If the state does not reach a plan soon, the state risks losing the $125 million in federal funding approved several years ago.
Opposition to the Mobile River Truck Bridge
Public comments on the project are split. Government officials mostly support the Mobile River Truck Bridge, whereas associations representing stakeholders and residents oppose the plans.
In comments submitted on May 26, Alabama Trucking Association President Mark Colson called the Mobile River Truck Bridge an “unsubstantiated concept.”
“Singling out the trucking industry and micro-targeting a specific sector of commercial trucking raises serious constitutional questions,” Colson said. “The trucking industry has a long history of defending its rights under the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause and has successfully challenged numerous attempts to create disparate funding schemes.”
Another concern is increased costs of goods due to higher shipping costs. One Alabama trucking company calculated that a $15 toll would increase its annual costs by $1.6 million. Colson is also worried that the limited scope of the Mobile River Truck Bridge may not relieve congestion at all. Colson and the Alabama Trucking Association are requesting that transportation and state officials go back to the drawing board.
A coalition of groups representing Africatown, a community 3 miles north of downtown Mobile, also raised several concerns.
Residents are concerned that truck traffic will increase significantly in town as truckers attempt to avoid the $15 Mobile River Truck Bridge toll. Consequently, that would pose health risks from toxic air pollution derived from diesel exhaust, the coalition argues.
“The plan for the Mobile River Bridge Project would worsen environmental racism in Africatown by increasing truck diesel pollution, creating more health and safety risks, and limiting access to historic sites in the community,” the coalition said in a statement. “By ignoring these racial disparities in the plan for the Mobile River Bridge Project, the Mobile MPO fails to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and environmental justice policies that prohibit the use of federal transportation dollars on projects that result in racial discrimination.”
Other groups that oppose the project include Africatown-Chess, Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition, Environmental and Climate Justice Committee of the Mobile NAACP, Yorktown Missionary Baptist Church, Union Missionary Baptist Church, Center for Fair Housing, Mobile County Training High School Alumni Association, Mobile Branch NAACP and the Sierra Club’s Mobile Bay Group.
Those that support the Mobile River Truck Bridge include:
- Alabama Coasting
- Alabama State Port Authority
- Airbus Americas Inc.
- Autry Greer & Sons Inc.
- Baldwin County Chamber Coalition
- Board of Directors of Partners for Environmental Progress
- Build the I-10 River Bridge Coalition
- Coastal Alabama Partnership
- Community Bank
- FAL Mobile
- Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce
- Page & Jones Inc.
In total, 150 public comments support the Mobile River Truck Bridge and 153 oppose the project. Of those opposed, 111 are against tolls, 20 cite safety/congestion concerns, and 22 are completely against the project. LL