MOBILE, Ala. (WRKG) — The Alabama Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration gathered together engineers, designers, financiers, constructors and developers Monday at the Mobile Convention Center to talk with people who might be interested in participating in this project. There were about 400 people upstairs doing that, meanwhile, ALDOT Director John Cooper and others updated the media on what will happen next.
“The enthusiasm in that room, people understanding, director Cooper made it very, very plain, we are going to build this bridge,” says Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
But first, a lot must be done before even construction starts. We were told today the Environmental Impact Study is practically finished, all that’s left to put on it is how the project will be funded. They discussed a mixture of state and federal funds and tolls.
“ALDOT had said we’re going to be able to get that money from Texans as well as Floridians as they pass through our region. So they’re going to help pay for that bridge,” says State Senator Bill Hightower.
No word yet on how much a possible toll would be. The project could include a 12 mile stretch from Virginia Street to the Eastern Shore. The estimate of a project this big is still up in the air.
“I’ve seen estimates everywhere from $800 million to $1.8B depending on how much you do,” says Cooper.
The cost will depend on the design. One thing they want to do is improve the causeway.
“To be able to raise the causeway and cause it to be elevated more above water level,” says Cooper.
What comes next is a year-long process of narrowing down future applicants until a contract is signed—they’re hoping that will happen by the end of 2018. But everyone agrees this is a priority.
“It’s gridlock, you know, it stifles our commerce,” says Stimpson.
And as soon as a contract is signed, they hope to begin construction by spring of 2019, Construction could take a little over four years.