On Wednesday, June 2, the Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted unanimously in favor of moving forward with the $725 million infrastructure plan looking to alleviate traffic on Interstate 10. A key feature of the plan? The Mobile Truck River Bridge, a truck-only toll bridge that routes larger vehicles away from the Wallace Tunnel.
Why a new bridge?
It’s no secret that there’s a huge amount of congestion coming into Mobile. In order to cross from Daphne/Fairhope/Eastern Shore into Mobile itself, one must cross the Bayway, a two-lane stretch of Interstate 10 that narrows into Wallace Tunnel.
It’s this stretch, the Bayway into the tunnel, that causes most of the traffic coming into Mobile. Those who live on the Eastern Shore but work in the city use the Bayway as their daily route to work, while the Bayway is also a major roadway for commercial trucking. Basically, there’s too many cars and not enough road.
The River Truck Bridge is the City of Mobile’s newest plan with a two-fold purpose: alleviate the Bayway traffic and secure over $100M in federal funding that will disappear if not used by the end of this year.
The overarching concept is to alleviate as much traffic as possible, while keeping the existing passenger routes toll-free. Trucks over 46 feet would be required to take the toll-road, at the price of $15 a trip. Ideally, this would clear up the daily congestion coming into and out of Mobile.
Critics of the plan say that the River Truck Bridge unfairly (and possibly Unconstitutionally) targets the commercial trucking industry, forcing truckers to foot the bill for passenger vehicles to enjoy a less-congested Bayway. Others ask if removing trucks will alleviate that much traffic on the Bayway and in the Wallace tunnel, when the curvature of the tunnel seems just as much an issue as the trucks.
Environmental concerns over the River Truck Bridge plan have been raised as well. Residents of Africatown, an area about 3 miles north of downtown, are concerned that trucks looking to circumvent the toll road will drive through Africatown instead, worsening the well-known environmental issues in Africatown.
Those in favor of the River Truck Bridge argue that this is the best way to accomplish multiple goals: solving congestion on Interstate 10, securing that $125M in federal funding, avoiding tolls for passenger vehicles and those who use the Bayway as a means of daily transportation.
Next steps for the Truck River Bridge Plan
Now that Mobile’s MPO has approved the River Truck Bridge plan, it now goes to the Eastern Shore MPO, which will vote on this measure Wednesday, June 9th. If approved by the Eastern Shore MPO, then the plan must go to the Alabama Department of Transportation to be added on their short-term projects list. If all that goes swimmingly, construction can start as early as next year, ending in 2026.