Costs for the Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project have risen to $2.7 billion in a project state officials aim to complete by 2028, according to a published project update. Friday.
The state also unveiled a new unlimited monthly toll rate of $40 that covers the majority of cars, trucks, SUVs and other common vehicles. The toll rate applies only to newly constructed infrastructure and would not be applied to vehicles traveling through the Wallace and Bankhead Tunnels, Spanish Fort Causeway and the Africatown USA Bridge.
The latest updates were revealed in a report from the Alabama Department of Transportation to East Coast and Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organizations. The two organizations are responsible for approving whether the I-10 project should be part of the region’s short- and long-term transportation priorities.
The overall price of the project is up $600 million from three years ago. A 2019 estimate valued the project at $2.1 billion. The increase is attributed to “inflation-related cost increases on highway projects across the state,” according to ALDOT.
“The new concept developed for the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway is based on local input and close coordination with Baldwin and Mobile county leaders,” said Ed Austin, ALDOT’s chief engineer. “ALDOT is excited about this concept and the benefits it will have for Baldwin County, Mobile County and the state as a whole.”
$40 monthly pass
Under ALDOT’s proposal, a tolling plan remains in place that would price one-way trips at $2.50 per vehicle on newly constructed infrastructure only. Existing infrastructure, such as tunnels, remains toll-free.
The unlimited monthly fee of $40 would be offered via an “ALGO Pass” sticker which will be made available through ALDOT. The stickers will be affixed to a car’s windshield and will act as toll transponders and will be modeled after regional examples like Georgia’s Peach Pass or Florida’s Sun Pass, according to ALDOT.
Toll revenue will be used to pay for a lion’s share of the project whose primary funding mechanism is surety bonds and the hope of securing future federal grants.
The toll, according to ALDOT, will end once the project debt is paid off.
DFOs, in separate meetings later this summer, will vote on the updated plan that includes tolls. The schedule, public comments and hearing details will be provided on DFO websites.
Construction of the project is expected to begin late next year.
In a news release on Friday, the chairs of the two DFOs – Fairhope Councilman Jack Burrell, representing East Coast DFO; and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, representing Mobile DFO, welcomed ALDOT’s report and acknowledged that it worked within a framework unveiled by the two parties in December.
That framework instructed ALDOT to keep tolls on the new bridge and the 7.5-mile I-10 Bayway at a maximum of $2.50 one-way. Additionally, the executive called on ALDOT to stop considering a public-private partnership on the project, which he did.
A previous iteration of the I-10 project, which was killed in 2019 following local opposition, established a $6 one-way toll. It was also expected to become the state’s first major public-private partnership project for an interstate project.
The 2019 plan also had a much higher monthly pass of $90 for unlimited usage.
“Moving forward with this plan is a significant milestone in the history of Mobile and southern Alabama,” Stimpson said. “This bridge is key to Mobile’s future growth – it connects workers to jobs and businesses to new customers. Building this bridge will be the cornerstone of Mobile’s future success.
Burrell said ALDOT’s report represented a “great day for Baldwin County,” and added that he was “delighted” that it creates an option for county residents who regularly commute to Mobile to use the new bridge for an average one-way toll of less than $1.
Construction and financing
The construction details for the ALDOT plan are as follows:
- Key features of the project include a new six-lane cable-stayed bridge with a minimum of 215 feet of air draft over the Mobile River. The high-level approach spans for the bridge will begin just east of Virginia Street in Mobile and end between the Bayway Bridges. The following interchanges will be rebuilt to improve traffic flow: Broad Street, Virginia Street, Texas Street, Canal/Water Streets and US 90/98 in Daphne.
- The new Bayway will span approximately 7.4 miles and will be raised approximately 12 feet from the current Bayway to meet federal storm surge requirements. The existing Bayway will remain open and free throughout the construction of the new Bayway.
- To keep the Wallace Tunnel toll-free, toll gates – overhead scanners – will be located at the Mid-Bay Interchange. This location, according to ALDOT, ensures that tolls are only charged to vehicles using the new infrastructure, and that traffic does not stop when passing under the gantry.
ALDOT plans to use the following funding sources to finance the project:
- $1.2 billion through bond financing.
- $1.1 billion in federal loans under the Transportation Infrastructure Funding and Innovation Act (TIFIA).
- At least $250 million in public funding.
- $125 million from a federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant awarded in 2019.
- $500 million in federal Mega Advance Grants that are available under the bipartisan infrastructure plan signed by President Joe Biden in November.