Alabama DOT: $3B Needed to Improve Hurricane Evacuation

Wed May 10, 2006 - Southeast Edition

BIRMINGHAM, AL (AP) State transportation officials say $3 billion is needed to improve hurricane evacuations by adding lanes to Interstate 65 from the coast to Montgomery and building a bridge next to the Interstate 10 bridge in Mobile to handle tunnel backup traffic.

The transportation agency sent the proposal to members of Alabama’s congressional delegation.

“They asked for it, and we gave it to them,” said state Transportation Director Joe McInnes.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s press secretary, Katie Boyd, said the senator’s staff asked the governor’s office about specific needs and damages Alabama incurred after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in August.

In response, DOT officials included future needs to expedite coastal evacuations. A bridge over Mobile Bay is the most expensive project on DOT’s list, costing $660 million. McInnes told The Birmingham News in a story Jan. 31 that the bridge would increase interstate traffic capacity and lessen tie-ups in the Wallace Tunnel.

The next most costly proposal, at $550 million, is to widen I-65 from Mobile to Montgomery to expedite evacuation traffic.

State officials also want $36 million for traffic cameras, vehicle counters and electronic signs along I-65 from Mobile to Montgomery and on I-10 from Florida to Mississippi. The proposed electronic system would be coordinated with similar ones in Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana to ease hurricane evacuation.