County Commission to set date for vote on toll road
24 mile route would connect Foley Beach Express to I-65
By Fran Thompson
Baldwin County voters will get to decide if they want to create a toll road and bridge authority with jurisdiction over a 24-mile stretch of highway that would connect the exiting Beach Express to Interstate 65 northeast of Bay Minette.
The Alabama State Legislature recently agreed to a Senate amendment to allow for the creation of a bridge authority to oversee the proposed toll road.
The Baldwin County Commission now will set a date for the vote. If approved, the Authority will then set toll rates to pay for the estimated $200 million project.
The extension would be a county road, making it ineligible for funds from the increase in state gas taxes recently approved by voters.
The plan for the Foley Beach Express, which opened for business in 2000, was always to connect first to I-10 and then to I-65. Baldwin County and developer Tim James built the first stretch of the Foley Beach Express & Briddge in 2000 as a joint public-private partnership. Baldwin County paid for the highway from Foley to the Intracoastal Waterway, and James’ company built the bridge. Drivers currently pay a toll to cross the canal on the Express.
Baldwin County could use funds from the Deepwater Horizon RESTORE Act – around $11 million – to purchase land for the highway, if voters approve forming a bridge authority, which would have the power of eminent domain.
Ballot initiatives for a county toll road and bridge authority and one for municipality bridge authority, specifically Orange Beach, failed by a 52 to 48 percent vote in 2016.