Amid continued lack of answers from ALDOT, residents request records from Army Corps for Baldwin County bridge

Foley Beach Express Bridge
Foley Beach Express Bridge

Having grown tired of waiting for the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) to give them answers about a proposed new bridge in Baldwin County, a group of locals have taken matters into their own hands on their quest for more information.

On Thursday, 6 local residents sent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Mobile District office a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to “obtain access and review the permit application and records and studies, and comments, and other correspondence and documents in the file: SAM-206-00913-LET (The new permit application for the ICW bridge and road project).”

According to the FOIA document, the signers “are making this request on behalf of residents, property owners, homeowners, tourists, a citizens’ group specifically formed based on interest in the project, and others including local public officials who correspond with residents and citizens through a Facebook page.

At issue is a $87 million state-funded, competing bridge to the Foley Beach Express — a proposed connector from SR-180 to Foley Beach Express Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway that will run between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Ala. Opponents of the bridge insist 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.

Last week news broke that ALDOT has scheduled the first project-specific public hearing for the bridge on Nov. 15.  ALDOT has invited anyone in the Southwest Region (Mobile area) interested in the new bridge to the hearing 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.

But some local residents don’t have much faith in what they consider the long-overdue ALDOT hearing, which is why they’ve turned to the USACE FOIA.

“Myself and many other members of the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach community feel it is necessary to be allowed access to the permit plans, records and studies associated with the ICW bridge project,” said Joe Emerson, the founder of the Facebook group dedicated to stopping what he dubbed “End The #Bridge2Nowhere. “Multiple requests were made by the public to the USACE in May of this year asking for a public hearing about the LET request and we haven’t even been granted as much as an answer.”
Emerson continued, “The state and local officials that are endorsing this project would have the taxpayers believe that this project is good for local and state interests when in fact in is quite to the contrary. If the project is so beneficial, then why can we not be granted access to public information about this project in a timely manner?”

The FOIA requestors are asking that the fees be waived for their request as “the project is being funded with our tax dollars, and because this is public information.”

“When the State Auditor, journalists and the tax-paying public are denied timely access to public information surrounding the ICW Bridge and Roadway project, there are few assumptions to be made besides the one suggesting there are faults and problems with the plans at their core,” Emerson concluded. 

Read the USACE FOIA request below: