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Three Big Things

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  • ALDOT’s new I-10 plan: $2.7 billion project, $40 unlimited use toll rate, completion set for 2028


    The Interstate 10 Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project’s costs have increased to $2.7 billion under a project that state officials are targeting for a completion by 2028, according to a project update released Friday.

    The state also unveiled a new monthly unlimited toll rate of $40 that covers a majority of cars, trucks, SUVs and other common vehicles. The toll rate applies only to the newly constructed infrastructure and would not be assessed on vehicles driving through the Wallace and Bankhead tunnels, Spanish Fort Causeway and the Africatown USA Bridge.

    The newest updates were revealed in a report from the Alabama Department of Transportation to the Eastern Shore and Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Both organizations are charged with approving whether the I-10 project should be part of the region’s short-and long-term transportation priorities.

    The project’s overall price tag has increased by $600 million from three years ago. A 2019 estimate put the project at $2.1 billion. The increase is attributed to a “inflation-driven cost increases on highway projects across the state,” according to ALDOT.

    “The new concept developed for the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway is based on local input and close coordination with leaders from Baldwin and Mobile counties,” said Ed Austin, ALDOT’s chief engineer. “ALDOT is excited about this concept and the benefits it will have for Baldwin County, Mobile County and the entire state.”

    $40 monthly pass

    Under ALDOT’s proposal, a toll plan remains in place that would assess one-way trips at $2.50 per vehicle over newly built infrastructure only. Existing infrastructure, such as the tunnels, remains untolled.

    The $40 monthly unlimited rate would be offered through an “ALGO Pass” sticker that will be made available through ALDOT. The stickers will be affixed to a car’s windshield, and will serve as toll transponders and will be modeled after regional examples like Georgia’s Peach Pass or Florida’s Sun Pass, according to ALDOT.

    Revenue from the tolls will be utilized to pay a lion share of project that’s main financing mechanism is through bonding and the hopes of landing future federal grants.

    Tolling, according to ALDOT, will end once the project debt is paid off.

    The MPOs, in separate meetings later this summer, will vote on the updated plan that includes the tolls. Scheduling, public comments, and hearing details will be provided on the MPO websites.

    The project’s construction is expected to begin late next year.

    Project praise

     In a Friday news release, the chairs of the two MPOs – Fairhope City Councilman Jack Burrell, representing the Eastern Shore MPO; and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, representing Mobile’s MPO – praised ALDOT’s report and acknowledged that it worked within the scope of a framework both parties unveiled in December.

    That framework called on ALDOT to keep the tolls over the new bridge and 7.5-mile I-10 Bayway at no more than $2.50 for a one-way trip. Additionally, the framework called on ALDOT to discontinue consideration of a public-private partnership on the project, which it has done.

    A previous iteration of the I-10 project, which was killed in 2019 following local opposition, established a one-way toll of $6. It was also planned to become the state’s first major public-private partnership project for an interstate project.

    The 2019 plan also had a much higher monthly pass of $90 for unlimited use.

    “Moving forward with this plan is a milestone in the history of Mobile and South Alabama,” Stimpson said. “This bridge is a key component to Mobile’s future growth – it connects workers to jobs and businesses to new customers. Building this bridge will be a cornerstone of Mobile’s future success.”

    Burrell said ALDOT’s report represented a “great day for Baldwin County,” and added that he is “thrilled” it creates an option for county residents who regularly commute to Mobile to use the new bridge for an average one-way toll of under $1.

    Construction and financing

    Construction details for ALDOT’s plan are as follows:

    * The project’s main features include a new six-lane, cable-stay bridge with a minimum of 215 feet of air draft clearance over the Mobile River. The high-level approach spans for the bridge will start just east of Virginia Street in Mobile and end between the Bayway bridges. The following interchanges will be reconstructed to improve traffic flow: Broad Street, Virginia Street, Texas Street, Canal/Water streets and U.S. 90/98 in Daphne.

    * The new Bayway will run approximately 7.4 miles, and will be elevated approximately 12 feet higher than the current Bayway to meet federal storm surge requirements. The existing Bayway will remain open and free throughout the construction of the new Bayway.

    * To keep the Wallace Tunnel toll-free, toll gantries – overhead scanners – will be located at the Mid-Bay interchange. This location, according to ALDOT, ensures that tolls are only charged for vehicles using the new infrastructure, and that traffic does not stop while passing under the gantry.

    ALDOT expects to use the following funding sources to pay for the project:

    * $1.2 billion through bond financing.

    * $1.1 billion in federal loans through the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA).

    * At least $250 million in state funding.

    * $125 million from a federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant awarded in 2019.

    * $500 million in anticipated federal Mega grant funding that is available through the bipartisan infrastructure plan signed by President Joe Biden in November.

    ALDOT’s new I-10 plan: $2.7 billion project, $40 unlimited use toll rate, completion set for 2028 - al.com

  • Elective abortions now illegal in Alabama

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Abortions swiftly came to a stop in Alabama as a 2019 state abortion ban took effect making it a felony to perform an abortion at any state of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest victims.

    All three clinics in the state stopped providing services Friday morning after a federal judge granted the state’s request to lift an injunction and allow the state to enforce the ban, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

    The only exception to the state’s abortion ban is for the sake of the mother’s health.

    Gov. Kay Ivey praised the Supreme Court decision.

    “I could not be more proud as a governor, a Christian and a woman to see this misguided and detrimental decision overturned,” Ivey said. “Alabama will continue standing up for our unborn babies, our mothers and our families.”

    Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the decision Friday afternoon, explaining that 2019 Human Life Protection Act is now in effect.

    “The State of Alabama’s emergency motion to lift the injunction and reinstate Alabama’s 2019 law, which prohibits abortions in most instances, has been granted,” Marshall said. “Both the federal district court and the plaintiffs recognized that there is no basis for a continued stay of the duly-enacted law in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Thus, Alabama’s law making elective abortions a felony is now enforceable. Anyone who takes an unborn life in violation of the law will be prosecuted, with penalties ranging from 10 to 99 years for abortion providers.”

    Elective abortions now illegal in Alabama - Alabama Daily News (aldailynews.com)

  • Biden signs gun control bill in wake of deadly mass shootings: 'Lives will be saved'

    President Biden on Saturday signed the most significant gun control bill in nearly 30 years less than 24 hours after it passed through the Congress with unusual haste. 

    "Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved," Biden said in an address to the nation. "From Columbine to Sandy Hook to Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo, Uvalde and for the shootings that happen every day in the streets. How many times have you heard that, ‘Just do something, for God's sake just do something?'

    "Today, we did."

    The House passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Friday by a 234-193 vote with 14 Republicans crossing party lines just one day after the Senate passed the legislation in a 65-33 vote Thursday night.

    The new law is an attempt to prevent mass shootings that have plagued the U.S. for years. 

    Two mass shootings that occurred within a week in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, left dozens dead last month.

    The Senate then launched negotiations between 10 Senate Republicans and 10 Senate Democrats to pass gun control reform and address gun violence across the U.S.

    Though the push was largely opposed by Republicans in the House, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell championed the legislation and said it "will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens."

    The newest law will incentivize states to pass red flag laws and expand background checks for 18- to 21-year-olds.

    The Uvalde shooting, which killed 19 children and two teachers, and the Buffalo shooting, which has been deemed a hate crime that left 10 dead and three wounded, were both carried out by 18-year-old men.

    Lawmakers have encouraged states to release previously sealed juvenile records, which could potentially add several days to the waiting period before a gun purchase can be completed.

    But even with the new gun control measures, it remains unclear if the two most recent mass shootings could have been prevented by the newest stipulations. 

    Both 18-year-old men legally purchased AR-15-style rifles and neither was flagged by existing red flag laws. 

    The newest provision calling on states to release juvenile records may have helped to flag Payton Gendron, the Buffalo shooter who was evaluated for mental health concerns in 2021 but evaded any red flags.

    The bill also provides funding for youth mental health programs.

    "This bill doesn't do everything I want. It does include actions I've long called for that are going to save lives," Biden said. "I know there's much more work to do. And I'm never going to give up.

    "But this is a monumental day."

    Biden signs gun control bill in wake of deadly mass shootings: 'Lives will be saved' | Fox News

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