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What are the next steps in Mobile's I-10 bridge project?

APR's Guy Busby

Planners along the Gulf coast want to move ahead with a nearly $3 billion bridge across Mobile Bay.

The nuts and bolts work of the much delayed I-10 bridge project now takes center stage following last week’s yes vote by the Municipal Planning Boards in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, but there are still hurdles to cross.

"We've got a lot of work to do on the environmental process, re-evaluating that document, air and noise studies," said Matt Ericksen, a division engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation. "Now the state has to put it in our transportation improvement plan once we do that, we'll start procurement and the environmental reviews associated with the project."

The current I-10 bridge over Mobile Bay carries sometimes three times the highway’s daily capacity. Vehicles often back up for miles, particularly during the summer tourist season. Now, work could start next year to relieve that congestion. The new bridge could take five years to complete.

Environmental impact reports and air and noises studies now take the place of the politically thorny issue of tolls on the nearly three billion dollar I-10 bridge project. The metropolitan planning organizations for Mobile and the Eastern Shore voted unanimously to put the bridge on their Transportation Improvement Plans. The move makes the project eligible for federal funding.

Jack Burrell is chairman of the Eastern Shore MPO and said he hopes the highway can be open in six years.

"It's no exaggeration to say that this day has been a long time coming and is, in many ways the result of years of work and public advocacy and engagement on this process," Burrell said. "There will be more public comment period, but we do think that we will break ground next year and we do think it will be completed by 2028."

The I-10 system over Mobile Bay was built with a capacity of 36,000 vehicles in the 1970s. Today, that number can top 100,000 on peak days.

Guy Busby is an Alabama native and lifelong Gulf Coast resident. He has been covering people, events and interesting occurrences on America’s South Coast for more than 20 years. His experiences include riding in hot-air balloons and watching a ship being sunk as a diving reef. His awards include a national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists as part of the APR team on the series “Oil and Water,” on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Some of his other interests include writing, photography and history. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Silverhill.
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