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Lieutenant governor opposes Alabama toll bridge proposal


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth on Monday voiced opposition to a proposed toll bridge in south Alabama, saying it will be a burden on the region's working families.

The Republican is one of nine members on the Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority. In a video posted to social media, Ainsworth said he will vote against the project.

"A state that built the rockets that sent men to the moon should be able to find a way to build a bridge without extorting the citizens it seeks to serve," Ainsworth wrote in a tweet announcing his opposition. Ainsworth said in the video that the proposed tolls "violate every conservative belief and principle that I hold."

The proposed toll bridge across Mobile Bay and the Mobile River has divided state officials. Transportation officials have said the bridge is needed to eliminate congestion and improve safety, but the state on its own can't afford the massive project. Critics have said the tolls, ranging up to $6, would be difficult for working families and commuters to pay.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has asked the authority to meet on Oct. 7 to discuss the project and for people to present alternative funding ideas.

"Governor Ivey welcomes plans for an alternative funding solution to help get this project — which has been in the planning stages for almost 25 years — to the point where it can finally move forward," Ivey press secretary Gina Maiola wrote in an email.

"Thus far, we have heard concerns about tolls; now, we need to hear reasonable solutions," Maiola wrote.

The proposed Interstate 10 bridge would cost an estimated $2.1 billion and would be one of the nation's largest, spanning about 10 miles (16 kilometers) and soaring hundreds of feet above the water near downtown Mobile. There would be 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) of bridges over Mobile Bay and another 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) bridge over the Mobile River.

The proposed tolls would be based on the distance traveled. One proposal would be to sell unlimited toll passes for a cost of $90 per month and to offer other discounts for frequent users.

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