Jim Ziegler asks TPO to table bridge decision pending John Cooper/ALDOT answers

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Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler is back at it: trying to protect taxpayers from wasteful spending.

Just over two months ago, Ziegler reached out to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) trying to find answers about a proposed bridge between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, AL.

As Alabama Today previously reported, in a letter dated April 17, sent a letter to John Cooper, Transportation Director at ALDOT and William Patty, ALDOT Chief Counsel, inquiring about the need for an $87 million state-funded bridge project in Baldwin County — which would be a second bridge to Orange Beach.

Zeigler 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.

John Cooper and ALDOT have yet to respond to Ziegler’s request.

Which is why on Tuesday, he sent a letter to the Florida/Alabama Transportation Planning Organization  (TPO) making a formal request that they delay action on an agenda item, Resolution FL-AL 18-12, during a meeting they have scheduled Wednesday.

This Resolution would update the 2040 Florida-Alabama Transportation long range plan to include the controversial bridge.

The report notes that, in April 11, 2018  the “TPO tabled action on: Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway Bridge from SR 180 (Canal Road) to Foley Beach Express; Wolf Bay Bridge and Connecting Roads from SR 180 (Canal Road) to CR 20. TPO amended the LRTP to add two projects: I-10 from US 29 to the Alabama State Line; Nine Mile Road from in the Vicinity of Beulah Road to East of I-10.” 

The decision to table action was a direct result of local residents speaking out to express their concerns. Joe Emmerson who leads the group opposed to the “Bridge to Nowhere” and other local residents attended the meeting and expressed their concerns over both the cost and need for the bridge as well as the effects it would have on existing property owners in the area.

The report for Wednesday’s cites two public hearings on the project (one being the last TPO meeting) although in sworn testimony DOT officials expressly denied any public hearings have been held and residents have expressly spoken out against the fact they have not had the opportunity to have their voices heard.

The resolution in question is one concerning the controversial Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway Bridge from SR 180 (Canal Road) to Foley Beach Express.

Read Zeigler’s letter in full below:

State of Alabama
June 12, 2018
Mr. Gary Kramer
Ms. Tiffany Bates

Florida/Alabama Transportation Planning Organization
Request that you postpone any positive action on Item F.1. (1)

As the State Auditor for the State of Alabama, I hereby request that you delay any positive action on the first half of Resolution FL-AL 18-12 (Item F. 1, enclosure A) on your June 13, 2018 agenda. This is the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway Bridge from SR 180 (Canal Road) to Foley Beach Express.

The reason is that I have formally requested from the Alabama Department of Transportation vital public documents needed to address issues about this proposed project. ALDOT has not yet provided the documents as yet.  If you will postpone any positive action on F.1 (1), I will notify you as soon the needed documents are provided.  I will also provide you my independent review of this project.

F. 1. Consideration of Resolution FL-AL 18-12 to amend the Florida-Alabama 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan for Two projects: (1) Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway Bridge from SR 180 (Canal Road) to Foley Beach Express

Thank you.
Jim Zeigler
Alabama State Auditor
600 Dexter Ave., S-101
Montgomery, AL 36130
334-242-7010

Alabama Today has reached out to Austin Mount the Executive Director of the TPO to confirm they are in receipt of the letter, to ask if it has been forwarded to members of the commission and to seek comment and will update this story upon hearing back from them.

He responded back Tuesday evening that the resolution item will remain on the agenda. Below is his full response:

“We are in receipt of the request however the item still sits on the agenda and will be discussed tomorrow.  ALDOT is heavily in support of the bridge and the TPO board will be informed of all materials received before they make a decision to deny/approve/table the bridge matter.”

*6:28 p.m. CT: this article has been updated to include a response from TPO.

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