Alabama mulls PPP for $1.3bn-plus I-10 bridge project

The Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project, aimed at easing congestion on the George Wallace Tunnel, would be Alabama’s first transportation PPP.

Alabama’s transportation department will explore a public-private partnership to build a six-lane bridge over the Mobile River, with the project expected to cost between $1.3 billion and $1.8 billion.

The Mobile River Bridge and Bayway Project is aimed at easing congestion on the Interstate 10 corridor, where the George Wallace Tunnel, the highway’s current Mobile River crossing, has seen traffic levels far beyond its planned capacity. In addition to building the bridge, the project would see the four-lane Bayway replaced with an eight-lane facility.

The transportation department, known as ALDOT, plans to issue a request for qualifications by the end of September followed by a request for proposals in the second quarter of 2018.
ALDOT expects to build the bridge under a design-build-finance-operate-maintain model. The agency is also exploring funding methods including grants and tolling.
While Alabama is one of 37 US states with PPP-enabling legislation, the I-10 project would be the first PPP undertaken by ALDOT. A spokeswoman for the agency told Infrastructure Investor that the private sector will bring “efficiency and innovation” to the project.
Built to accommodate 36,000 daily crossings, the Wallace Tunnel now sees as many as 100,000 cars pass through during peak season, making an alternative crossing a priority for state officials. In a 2015 visit to Mobile, then Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx urged officials to look at creative financing options, including TIFIA loans, for the project.