County Commission asks for toll elimination


BAY MINETTE – The Baldwin County Commission updated its position on the proposed toll for the Mobile River bridge and Bayway on Tuesday asking that the Alabama Department of Transportation drop any plans to charge a toll.

The commission had voted Aug. 6 to pass a resolution asking ALDOT to find ways to reduce or eliminate the proposed toll over the Mobile River and Mobile Bay. The version passed Tuesday asked that ALDOT not charge any fee for the roads.

“The only change is in section 2 on the second page that reads ‘the County Commission hereby requests that ALDOT review, investigate and otherwise secure additional federal, state and grant funding opportunities to eliminate the proposed tolls for this project,’ and the wording ‘to eliminate’ is replacing our previous wording.” Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood, who introduced the resolution, said.

The resolution passed Aug. 6 asked that ALDOT look for other funding opportunities, “to alleviate, or greatly reduce, the tolls necessary for this project.”

At the Aug. 6 meeting, three audience members asked that the commission take out the wording to reduce the toll and just ask that ALDOT not charge to cross the bridge.

At that time, Underwood and other commissioners said they would continue to study the toll proposal. Asked about the resolution Tuesday, Underwood said “I just thought it was time.”

Commission Chairman Charles “Skip” Gruber abstained from the vote. “I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said after the meeting.

In previous interviews, ALDOT Director John Cooper said the state does not have enough money to build the $2.1 billion project without seeking funding from tolls. ALDOT officials said the standard toll to cross the entire length of the highway would be $6. A pass would also be available allowing unlimited use of the road for $90 a month.

In both resolutions, the commission said the bridge is needed, but the tolls will hurt residents and businesses.

“While the County Commission does not oppose the construction of a new bridge to assist with traffic issues and to prepare for anticipated growth in the area, the County Commission has great concern regarding the financial impact the proposed toll may have on individuals traveling from Mobile and Baldwin counties for work,” the resolution said.

Daphne and Spanish Fort have also passed resolutions opposing the proposed bridge toll. At a Daphne City Council meeting Monday night, Mayor Dane Haygood asked residents to contact their local legislators and other officials about the proposal that he said would have a severe impact on the local economy.