The Alabama Road Builder - Fall 2013 - (Page 14)

feature Proposed I-10 Bridge Hopes to Cure Bottleneck in Mobile By William Thompson I nterstate 10 is one of the longest segments of federal highway in the United States, a 2,460-mile ribbon that stretches from Southern California to northern Florida. Some 700 miles of the nation’s fourth-longest interstate pass through several of the Sun Belt’s most crowded urban areas, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston and San Antonio. Congestion is an expected hassle in big cities, especially for those along I-10. Back in 2007, for example, Forbes magazine identified two I-10 intersections in Los Angeles, two in Phoenix and one in Houston among the dozen worst “traffic traps” in the country. Mobile may be just a small fraction in size, compared to those communities. But the snarl regularly created on its portion of I-10 is no less a headache in southwest Alabama for those caught in the increasing congestion at the aging George C. Wallace Tunnels. That’s why many eagerly hope there is merit to claims that progress is being made on the proposed remedy: a new bridge over the Mobile River. The A labama Depar tment of Transportation has been discussing a new bridge over the Mobile River since 1997. That year ALDOT commissioned a feasibility study to seek out alternatives to the “declining usefulness,” as a 2010 department video described it, of the Wallace Tunnels in accommodating traffic growth around Mobile. Now, one of ALDOT’s key regional officials maintains there is light at the end of the administrative tunnel. Vince Calametti, chief engineer for ALDOT’s 9th Division, says the agency is close to pulling together the draft environmental impact statement required by the Federal Highway Administration. That plan will contain the recommended route for the bridge. Opened in 1973, the 3,000-foot-long Wallace Tunnels were designed to handle up to 50,000 cars a day, according to an editorial the Mobile Press-Register published last September. In 2007, the FHWA reports, traffic volume through the passageways had reached 66,000 cars daily. ALDOT reported three years later that the tunnels were failing in terms of capacity, with peak volume numbering 88,000 cars a day. Congestion at the tunnels, where I-10 narrows from eight lanes to four, earned them the distinction of worst traffic chokepoint in Alabama, according to an October 2010 report by TRIP, a Washington-based transportation research group. TRIP pointed out that over Labor Day weekend 2010 the backup at the tunnels was 16 miles long. “A Congestion at the [George C. Wallace] tunnels, where I-10 narrows from eight lanes to four, earned them the distinction of worst traffic chokepoint in Alabama. 14 planned six-lane Interstate 10 bridge over the Mobile River would greatly relieve this chokepoint,” the group concluded. The study noted, “The project is currently in the environmental review process.” At that point, ALDOT, according to its video, had been working on that for seven years. Calametti says the long and complicated process that began a decade ago should be completed by the end of September. The FHWA will then take public comment on the plan for 45 days. At the end of that period, Calametti says, a public meeting will take place to present the “preferred alternative” among the four suggested routes and the option to not build. The fi nal report to the FHWA should be presented by next summer, Calametti said. “We’re just trying to concentrate on getting the environmental impact statement done,” Calametti added. “I hope to keep the momentum going.” Johnny Walton, owner of the Mobilebased John G. Walton Construction Co. Inc., doesn’t doubt that the I-10 bridge proposal has made strides toward reality. Walton notes, for example, that opposition to the project had dissipated in recent years. Criticism that the bridge would be a blight on the city’s skyline crumbled once Mobile’s City Council, the Mobile County Commission and the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce announced their respective support, Walton says. “I think it’s progress, but I think it’s a long ways away,” Walton says. “I think they’re going in the right direction. The momentum is there. But if they run into a www.alrba.org http://www.alrba.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Alabama Road Builder - Fall 2013

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE
ALABAMA ROADBUILDERS CONVENTION 2013 HIGHLIGHTS
2013 LEGISLATIVE WRAP-UP
PROPOSED I-10 BRIDGE HOPES TO CURE BOTTLENECK IN MOBILE
ALDOT
HIGHWAY & BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION WORKER SAFETY
ARTBA
LEGAL
MEMBER PROFILE
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES MARKETPLACE
HEARD ALONG THE HIGHWAY
INDEX TO ADVERTISERS/ADVERTISERS.COM

The Alabama Road Builder - Fall 2013

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