I-10 Bridge, who foots the bill?

There was a lot of positive reaction to Tuesday’s announcement from the Federal Highway Administration.  The FHA signed off on an early study of a proposed Interstate 10 bridge across the Mobile River.

Travelers currently have to cross Mobile Bay and the river using roads and tunnels.  The plans are for a new span that would cross the Mobile River near downtown just north of the city’s cruise ship terminal. The existing Bayway would also be widened.

“Approval of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is a significant step in what tends to be a long process. Bringing this project to the point that we have a specific corridor defined and know we can build a bridge there remains one of my key goals,” said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in a statement. “We appreciate Congressman Bradley Byrne and the Mobile Chamber of Commerce for their efforts to relay the importance of this project to federal representatives and help it move through the process.”

It’s hard denying the need for the new bridge to help with the daily bottleneck at the I-10 Wallace Tunnel during rush hour traffic.  But needing something and being able to pay for it are two separate things.

Congressman Bradley Byrne has expressed his frustrations with the Department of Transportation and the hold-up with the new I-10 bridge over Mobile River.  However, speaking at the National Press Club luncheon in Washington DC, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx painted a grim picture for
the future of infrastructure across the entire country.

“It’s a sad commentary that we are in effect managing a declining system, a system that is crumbling before our eyes, a system that is growing potholes, a system that is creating longer commute times and a system that will cause us to lose jobs we have no business losing in America… Why?” said Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary.

Secretary Foxx gives a one word answer for our nations’ under-funded transportation fund: under-investment.  “We have bridges old enough to qualify for medicare.”

For years, the transportation program has been spending more money than it takes in. This year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Transportation Department will disburse $45 billion while collecting only $33 billion for its Highway Trust Fund.

“What I am saying in effect is that American needs more than an incremental adjustment …we need a transportation reset and it’s got to be big.”

While Rep. Byrne says he will continue to push the federal government on the I-10 bridge, Secretary Foxx says it’s up to Congress to pass a long-term funding plan for the nation’s infrastructure. Right now, Congress has no solution.  The political gridlock has some wondering what it all means for the future of the new $700 million to $1 billion I-10 bridge.

Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood tells Fox10News that commuters will need to put on the breaks, in terms of their expectations.

“This isn’t going to happen this year or even in 5 years because once we get to the exact location you have to get to the engineering phase and then raise a lot of money. Working with the federal government….that’s a big question mark right now… I don’t think this is going to happen anytime soon.” Ludgood said.

So despite the studies and plans, it doesn’t look like anyone really knows where the funding for the I-10 bridge will come from.  Until then one thing is certain, we’ll be stuck in traffic while the politicians figure it out.

blog comments powered by Disqus