It’s time to move ahead on I-10 bridge

Published 6:58 pm Tuesday, May 20, 2014

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Last week was National Transportation Week — an excellent opportunity for our community to have a discussion about transportation needs in southwest Alabama. Most of us agree that our most pressing need is to build a new I-10 bridge that is able to handle increased vehicle traffic as we continue to attract more businesses to relocate to our community. Everyone living in southwest Alabama who has tried to cross the Bay at rush hour understands that this is an issue of critical importance.

In honor of National Transportation Week, I convened a group of nearly 50 local officials, business leaders, and community voices at the AIDT Maritime Center overlooking the current I-10 route to have a roundtable discussion on where we are today on the project, and how we can all work together to finally build this bridge. We had a very productive discussion with agencies like ALDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to gauge their needs and roadblocks and to hold these entities accountable. After hearing these agencies make their case, I called for a July 1 deadline to release an Environmental Impact Study — the current document that we are waiting on the FHA to finish so this project can move forward.

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We still face significant hurdles ahead. Our national infrastructure fund, the National Highway Trust, is in poor financial health. However, I believe this project is a national priority — one that demands urgent action. This stretch of the I-10 highway is the No. 1 chokepoint from coast to coast. It’s clear that my challenge as our Representative in Washington will be to communicate the need for this project effectively and clearly to my colleagues. This is a top priority of mine heading into a potential Highway Bill reauthorization — the legislation passed every few years by Congress to maintain our roads and bridges.

Now is the time to build. I feel confident that we are forging consensus and getting everyone in our community on board to push for this project. It will take a coalition of voices like those at our roundtable to make this finally happen. I’m more optimistic today than I was yesterday that progress is being made. With this meeting, I believe we are one step closer to making this project a reality.

I’ll continue to be a positive, proactive voice bringing our community together in pursuit of this common goal that we share.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.