A Yes and No for Baldwin Toll Authority

Orange Beach, AL
A new bridge in Orange Beach is possible with passage of Amendment 12

Confusion at the ballot box is being blamed for the failure of a Baldwin County Amendment 3 while a statewide amendment allowing cities to create toll authorities passed.

Another road block for the Baldwin Beach Express North to Interstate 65.

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“The public seems to be very much in favor of the project but there just has to be a way to pay for it,” says county commission chairman Chris Elliott.

Local Amendment 3 would have created a toll authority, the first step in developing a funding mechanism to pay for the 23-mile extension from Interstate 10 to 1-65. “We thought the method of not using tax money to do that but rather using a user fee, those that were actually using the road, would be the most palatable for Baldwin County voters.”

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When you talk about tolls it makes a lot of people a little nervous. But that didn’t stop voters from passing Amendment 12 on the statewide ballot that specifically dealt with the city of Orange Beach.

“It’s just another option for us. Don’t know if we will use it but it’s there.” Orange Beach mayor Tony Kennon says a municipal toll authority could finally help build another bridge in the coastal community. “The state is doing everything they can. They just don’t have the money. This gives us an option. So, there may come a time where we’ve got to have a bridge, we’ve got to have roadways and this allows us to put a toll road in place.”

Kennon says ideally the city would partner with the current toll bridge company to build a twin span over the Intracoastal Waterway and if not, the long talked about bridge over Wolf Bay. “This gives us the option to create a competing bridge or free bridge that’ll eliminate tolls all together over time,” says Kennon.

As for the Baldwin Beach Express extension, the Orange Beach amendment is no help. “It will not be used in any way that I can see to build the Baldwin Beach Express North,” says Elliott. But, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for the project. “If our legislative delegation wants to see this road built, then yes, we are going to have to put this before voters again.”

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A revised version of the toll authority amendment could show up on the ballot in 2018. The only other option is to let the state toll authority take over the project.

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