Some I-10 Tunnel Alternatives Come With Hefty Price Tags

Wed June 22, 2005 - Southeast Edition

MOBILE, AL (AP) State transportation officials with plans to reduce traffic congestion in the Interstate 10 tunnels have unveiled 14 wide-ranging options — some costing more than $1 billion.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) favors five of the 14 options, including a new downtown bridge and a northern route that would bypass downtown and cross the Mobile River at the Cochrane-Africatown USA Bridge near the old Scott Paper Co. site.

Three of the proposed downtown bridges are the same ones considered in the last DOT study, which picked a 190-ft. tall bridge that would cross at Mobile Landing, where the cruise terminal is now located.

Critics oppose a high-rise bridge over the river, saying it would harm the port city’s historic buildings and overshadow downtown.

Comparing routes, the state proposes rejecting options that would cross Mobile Bay south of the existing I-10 bridge known as the Bayway. Those routes —one of which would cost almost $3 billion — are almost all more expensive than routes preferred by DOT. Some would damage wetlands or historic structures or have logistical difficulties.

The choices for further review will not be completed until after two informational meetings are held.

DOT is looking at ways to reduce traffic through the I-10 Wallace Tunnel, a bottleneck at peak times — such as the past Memorial Day weekend. Vehicles slow down to deal with the sharp curve at the tunnel’s western end, the scene of many accidents.

Constructing a new tunnel could cost $1.55 billion, according to DOT estimates.

A 70-mi. long route that would run south to Dauphin Island, cross the mouth of Mobile Bay and curve up through rural Baldwin County was the most expensive option, at $2.93 billion. That route is too long to realistically move traffic out of the tunnel, according to the DOT report.