Lawsuit continues, as does construction on new Intracoastal Bridge

Lawsuit continues, as does construction on new Intracoastal Bridge
By John Mullen
After a day of hearings, both sides in the lawsuit filed by the Baldwin County Bridge Company against the Alabama Department of Transportation, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Jimmy Pool continued the case until April 19 and also set aside April 21 if additional time is still needed.
The owner of the toll span in Orange Beach is asking for a temporary restraining order to halt the construction of a second free Gulf Shores bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway and cited several complaints about the state and ALDOT Director John Cooper about his actions in negotiations with the company.
Ultimately, the suit asks for an “injunction issue prohibiting constructing the proposed new bridge.” It also asks for compensatory damages from the alleged abuses by Cooper.
Tony Harris, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said work has started to clear property on the northside of the Intracoastal leading to the new bridge even while the lawsuit challenging the project proceeds
“Any delay will only exacerbate the traffic problems on the Gulf Coast and hurt the people of Baldwin County,” Harris said. “Like the many Alabamians and visitors who are tired of sitting in traffic on Alabama’s coast, we look forward to the completion of the free, public bridge.
“Our contractor, Scott Bridge, is doing his clearing,” Harris added. “His preparation was to have access down to the shoreline to get started with construction. That’s part of his scope of his work, and he is working.”
Scott Bridge Company of Opelika was the low bidder on the project with a submission of $51.56 million when proposals were opened Sept. 30. The budgeted price of the bridge was $48 million to $60 million, according to ALDOT reports. The project is scheduled to be completed by Jan. 1, 2026.
“It’s got a set completion date,” Harris said. “A lot of a lot of our projects have a number of working days. This one has an actual calendar date deadline.”
“ALDOT Director John Cooper has been on a mission to destroy BCBC’s contractual rights and to force BCBC out of business,” the suit alleges. “Unfortunately, his tactics – carried out with taxpayer funds and from his position as an appointed state official in Montgomery – have caused and will continue to cause BCBC irreparable harm and damage.”
ALDOT previously reported that the bridge company would have to prove a new two-lane span next to the current toll bridge would take 40 percent of the traffic currently going over the State Route 59 bridge in Gulf Shores. Negotiations failed after several deadlines for a resolution were passed.
Part of the suit also alleges that the state has conducted no traffic studies to determine if the bridge is needed and would help alleviate traffic on the State Route 59 bridge. It also states Cooper and former ALDOT Southwest Engineer Vince Calametti admitted as much in other filings and in public meetings.
Harris said the lawsuit will waste taxpayer money to defend the lawsuit and could halt an important and needed infrastructure project to help with traffic in the resort area.
Ike Scott of Scott Bridge Company said the roadway leading up to the bridge had been cleared about a mile and a half to the bank of the Intracoastal Canal on the north side of the canal from Baldwin County Road 4, according to an Erica Thomas penned report in 1819news. com.
“We are under contract, we are under obligation, and the clock is running,” said Scott. “We have a time certain to get this bridge finished and opened to traffic, and we are absolutely full steam ahead, working as quickly as the rain will let us. We’re making really good progress, especially the last couple of weeks.”
Parts of the deal BCBC was offering to the state, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores included $60 million to Orange Beach over 50 years, after 50 years a state takeover of a new two-lane span the bridge company says it was willing to build, $25 million for a spur road from the Beach Express south to Cotton Creek Drive in Gulf Shores. Also reportedly included were free tolls for Baldwin County residents.
Even with a new two-lane span at the tolls, Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said 25 percent of the traffic on the Gulf Shores bridge would be bound for Orange Beach.
“Another destination study is in process and we’ve got updates on the previous one that we did,” Craft said in July. “The growth of the folks coming in from Orange Beach and coming over our bridge shows we’ve more got significant exit numbers now that we’ve not seen before and the number of people and going over that bridge from the Orange Beach area. It’s a higher percentage than the people coming into town.”