Gulf Shores Bridge Project Delayed by Orange Beach Toll Bridge Negotiations
By Mélanie LeCroy / [email protected]
A third access point on and off the island encountered a roadblock. A bridge project connecting the Foley Beach Express to State Highway 180 East was put on hold on Friday when the project was supposed to be open for tenders.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said in a statement he was approached several months ago by the Baldwin County Bridge Company (BCBC) with ideas on expanding the existing bridge at their expense, allowing the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to avoid construction spending. a new bridge to Gulf Shores. The BCBC is committed to allowing residents of Baldwin County to use the bridge for a minimum monthly fee and to make a substantial payment to Orange Beach if their ideas can be implemented.
In a statement on Friday, July 30, Kennon said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper agreed to a three-month negotiation period with the BCBC. , and ALDOT had temporarily suspended the tendering process for the new bridge. opening July 30.
“We have new owners of the BCBC who have expressed their willingness to work as a constructive part of the transportation network moving traffic through the Intracoastal Waterway. Let’s give them a chance. However, there is no guarantee that the negotiations will be successful; however, if we can solve this problem with private investment and redirect millions of dollars to greater needs, then Orange Beach and the entire state of Alabama, including its beaches, will benefit, ”said Kennon.
Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft has expressed disappointment over the delay in a statement released just hours after Kennon’s. Craft said the current owners of the BCBC have been negotiating with ALDOT on various alternative plans to the free bridge since purchasing the toll bridge in 2018.
“I am extremely disappointed to learn from a statement issued by Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon that this project has been delayed, once again, after three years of fruitless negotiations with these new owners. The transportation issues we strive to resolve impact Gulf Shores as much as any community and it is totally unacceptable that we are not directly involved when decisions like this are made, ”said Craft. .
According to Craft, more than 50,000 cars cross the WC Holmes Bridge in Gulf Shores each day, while only 11,000 cars pay to cross the Beach Express toll bridge. The proposed free bridge could ease traffic congestion on Highway 59 and provide a third access on and off the island and serve as an escape route.
“The BCBC and the City of Orange Beach are making millions every year from operating the toll bridge, so it is obvious that they are trying to negotiate a deal to prevent ALDOT from building a new free bridge,” continued Craft. “Further, according to Mayor Kennon’s statement, this proposal would allow BCBC to extend its private toll bridge and include a“ substantial payment ”to the City of Orange Beach. This proposal may be in the best financial interests of the BCBC and the City of Orange Beach, but outsourcing the Alabama coast transportation to a private toll bridge company is not a good deal for the people who live and work here or for the millions of people who visit Alabama beaches each year.
ALDOT’s new bridge is designed, right-of-way and permits are acquired, and funding is in place. The three-month negotiation period is expected to end in October.