Better late than never: ALDOT to hold public hearing on Bridge to Nowhere

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In what may be a turning point for a highly controversial bridge project, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has announced the first project-specific public hearing on a proposed bridge to the beach in Baldwin County.

The bridge at hand is the proposed connector from SR-180 to Foley Beach Express Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. It will run between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Ala. ALDOT is inviting anyone in the Southwest Region (Mobile area) interested in the new bridge to the public hearing on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Gulf Shores Activity Center. There, they will get a chance to ask questions, make comments, and may review project information and exhibits on display.

The bridge debate

Build the bridge

[Photo Credit: ‘Bridge To The Beach’ on Facebook]

One one hand is those who are pro-bridge. This group includes several local mayors like Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, Transportation Director at ALDOT John Cooper, as well as the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Tourism board. According to their website, the tourism board operates “With 34 full-time and 11 part-time employees, the CVB has a $10.46 million budget, which is funded by a 2 percent lodging tax.” The board came under fire last year for starting what some residents called a misleading petition campaign over the bridge. In a Change.org petition to garner support for the new bridge. At the time of publishing, it had garnered the signatures of 5,508 supporters. Opponents of the bridge pointed out that the language included in the petition was at best misleading if not an outright lie.

They explain their side saying:

Going to the beach has become an all day affair and that’s just the drive time. We can do something about it if we stand together.  By signing this petition we can tell the elected officials along the Gulf Coast that we need better ingress and egress to Pleasure Island on the Gulf Coast.

A new bridge, with no tolls, will allow more traffic to come across the island and it will reduce traffic flow on our major highways.

In a lawsuit against the state testimony confirmed that no studies have ever been conducted to determine the need or impact of an additional bridge. Local residents question any assertion that states that it will “reduce traffic flow” noting that it will put more traffic on Canal Road which is already an area of significant congestion.

Meanwhile, those against the beach bridge have amassed in a Facebook group called “End the #Bridge2Nowhere.” They believe $87 million state-funded bridge project is a misguided attempt by ALDOT and specifically John Cooper to curry favor with local politicians while solving no problems and potentially causing more harm to locals through both increased traffic congestion, noise pollution and damage to local property owners through the states use of eminent domain to seize houses and land.

 ALDOT’s lack of transparency about this project has come under fire from many including local residents, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, Alabama Today’s own Apryl Marie Fogel, and most recently State Senate candidate Jason Fisher.
Details and official notice below. If you are not able to make it residents can also send comments by November 30, 2018 to:
  • Email: swinfo@dot.state.al.us
  • Fax: (251) 473-3624
  • Mail: Vincent E. Calametti, P.E.
    Region Engineer, Southwest Region
    ATTN: Edwin L. Perry III, P.E.
    Alabama Department of Transportation
    1701 I-65 West Service Road N
    Mobile, Alabama 36618

View the invitation Southwest Region residents received to the public hearing below:

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