Friday, January 26, 2018

ATA officials concerned over proposed plan to toll Mobile River I-10 Bridge

Last week, officials from the Alabama Dept. of Transportation presented the Alabama Trucking Association Board of Directors with an update on the Mobile River I-10 Bridge Project, a much needed replacement for the Jubilee Parkway connecting Baldwin County bedroom communities to Mobile.

According to ATA officials, the group joined the Build the I-10 Bridge Coalition with hopes that federal and state transportation funds would finance the project.

But ATA President Frank Filgo stated in a recent letter to his membership that to his dismay, neither Congress nor the Alabama State Legislature addressed projects specifically, and highway infrastructure remains critically underfunded. As a fix, the trucking industry has long advocated an increase in the gasoline/diesel tax, at both the federal and state levels, as the most efficient way to fund our nation’s highway transportation needs.”

Lacking any other funding options, ALDOT officials contend that they have determined that the Mobile River Bridge project will be funded and built by a public-private-partnership (PPP), meaning the new bridge will be tolled.

“From a freight movement perspective, this is perhaps the most inefficient way to finance the project.” said Filgo. “And to be honest, the total cost to the highway users under the tolling scenario is yet to be determined.

Tolling the new I-10 bridge is a major concern for trucking industry officials since it will have a profound impact on freight movement along the I-10 corridor, which spans 2,416 miles, connecting eight states.

However, ATA’s major objection to the overall proposal is that the current route through Wallace Tunnel will also be tolled. “ATA opposes tolling of existing infrastructure, and this project will do that,” Filgo said. “Tolling the new bridge, along with the existing route means that a highway user is forced to travel the pay-as-you-go road.”

ALDOT maintains that 60 percent of the vehicles traversing the bridge would come from out-of-state and that they too should help bear the costs. However, Filgo argues that interstate commercial vehicles already pay Alabama highway user fees through IFTA and IRP. The proposed toll is an increased tax on top of the current highway user fees, as it applies to commercial vehicles.

Though toll rates are not yet set, ALDOT’s proposal suggests a “3-to-1 ratio,” meaning commercial vehicles will pay $9 as compared to $3 for automobiles. Overtime, Filgo contends, those rates will increase.

In his letter to the membership, Filgo asked trucking industry stakeholder to consider the impact of tolling this vital roadway on their business’s bottom line. “As a freight mover, your company needs to assess the impact of the project on your business,” he stated. “Subsequently, your input is needed, as we are currently reviewing our options to best express our concerns as it relates to the Mobile I-10 Bridge Project.“

Filgo is asking stakeholders to email comments and concerns directly to him, or call his office at 334-834-3983.