Jim Zeigler vows to continue to request information from ALDOT on Baldwin County bridge project

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Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler is back at it — trying yet again to get answers from the evasive Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) on the proposed Baldwin County bridge project.

ALDOT has managed to side-step Zeigler’s requests for over well over six months, and thus, for the third time, Zeigler is asking for further information about an $87 million state-funded bridge project in Baldwin County. But rather than sending a letter and waiting patiently, this time Zeigler is going to make the appeal in person at Thursday night’s scheduled hearing on the proposed new ALDOT bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway.

ALDOT announced the first project-specific public hearing last month. They are scheduled to make a “brief presentation” around 5:45 p.m. and then open the hearing to public comments. Speakers will have two minutes to make statements.

Zeigler said two minutes is “not-near long enough” to ask his questions, so he will present them as written comments, an option that is allowed.

History of Zeigler’s unanswered questions

It all began in April, when Zeigler made a request for public documents.

At the time, he requested the following documents from the ALDOT:

  1. Copies of any and all studies that demonstrated a need for a bridge over the Intercoastal waterway
  2. Any and all documents that show a change in the need for the Intercoastal bridge since the determination in 2016 that the bridge was unnecessary
  3. Any and all analyses to support spending $30-$87 million in state funds in light of the pressing infrastructure needs throughout the state
  4. Any and all documents that resulted in the range of costs projected ($30 to $87 million)
  5. Documents that show cost overruns on current and recent ALDOT projects
  6. According to the court filing from the bridge company, they agreed to widen their bridge at no additional cost to Please provide any and all documents that address why the option of widening the original bridge is not being utilized.

But after three months, the State Auditor, who filed the request as an everyday Alabama citizen, had not received any update from the ALDOT, so he filed a second follow-up request July 12, 2018 giving ALDOT’s Cooper and Patty a deadline to respond: August 17.

Now, nearly three months after that deadline Zeigler has yet to hear anything back from the ALDOT.

So Zeigler will try yet again on Thursday where he expects to get a response “because they are required to respond.”

“We have to take the comments and will sort through them and summarize and we have to respond to them,” said Brian Aaron, assistant region engineer for ALDOT’s Southeast Region, which includes Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

Zeigler is again requesting the following documents from the ALDOT:

  1. Copies of any and all studies that demonstrated a need for a bridge over the Intercoastal waterway.
  2. Any and all documents that show a change in the need for the Intercoastal bridge since the determination in 2016 that the bridge was unnecessary.
  3. Any and all analyses to support spending $30-$87 million in state funds in light of the pressing infrastructure needs throughout the state.
  4. Any and all documents that resulted in the range of costs projected ($30 to $87 million).
  5. Documents that show cost overruns on current and recent ALDOT projects.
  6. According to the court filing from the bridge company, they agreed to widen their bridge at no additional cost to Please provide any and all documents that address why the option of widening the original bridge is not being utilized.

“I have more questions than answers about the proposed additional bridge,” Zeigler said in April.  “I hope to solve that with my specific requests for public records. With other pressing needs for infrastructure improvements, we need to make sure that this $30 to $87 million-dollar project is the best use of our limited funds.”

Project construction is expected to begin next summer, and last for two to three years. The state expects to finish the environmental permitting process by spring of 2019, and the public meeting is a requirement during this stage.

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