Questions over a proposed new bridge to the beach continue in Baldwin County. The debate has pitted local residents and taxpayer advocates from around the state against Alabama Department of Transportation’s Secretary John Cooper and several local mayors.
At issue is a $87 million state-funded, competing bridge to the Foley Beach Express with opponents insisting it is a waste of taxpayer funds that will be diverting much-needed state resources away from other critical state infrastructure projects while not addressing the true transportation and infrastructure needs of the community while proponents say they’re tired of paying tolls and believe the new bridge will solve traffic problems.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon says there is a pressing need for the bridge — “We have to be able to move traffic, we’ve got to be able to evacuate and we have to be able to grow,” Kennon told AL.com. “One bridge with a toll does not help us do that.” — others believe people are being misled to think the bridge is a necessary solution to the traffic congestion.
Democrat Jason Fisher, a longtime resident of the Gulf Coast of Alabama State Senate candidate for District 32, says he understands the need for a bridge, but he too has concerns over the bridge plan.
In a statement provided to Joe Emerson, the founder of the Facebook group dedicated to stopping what he dubbed “End The #Bridge2Nowhere“, one of the projects leading local opponents, a Fisher campaign volunteer responded to a request for Fisher’s position on the bridge by saying, “Jason understands the need for a third bridge, but has concerns that the current plan has not been thoroughly vetted from a cost and environmental standpoint. He is in favor of further studies before moving the project further.”
Fisher further explained his position to Alabama Today in a statement:
“The main issue I have is that the project was approved by the Governor’s administration without a full cost scope and impact analysis,” said Fisher. “I live in Orange Beach and am fully aware of the heavy traffic. Our infrastructure on the island is inadequate compared to the amount of people and traffic during peak tourist seasons. A third bridge may indeed be necessary. However, based on the reporting I have read, no controlled studies were ever completed by government officials. I cannot support a project, necessary as it may be, that is not fully scoped and vetted before a price tag of $87 million is approved.”
Fisher’s concerns echo those of State Auditor Jim Zeigler who has posed questions on the cost and necessity of the bridge for months.
It is unclear what the status of the bridge is as of early September a spokesman for ALDOT said that they were not releasing information because of a pending lawsuit related to the bridge. We have asked for additional information on that lawsuit and will update our readers when we are able to provide more details.