GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) — Transportation officials in Alabama have gotten plenty of opinions, pro and con, to consider on a proposed bridge to improve access to the state’s beaches.
The department of transportation heard from 28 people in Gulf Shores on two proposals for a road and bridge project that’s expected to cost between $56 million and $61 million, news outlets reported.
City leaders in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach also testified in favor of the project, saying it would help evacuate the beaches during hurricanes.
“You cannot get on or off the island during any kind of catastrophic event,” said Orange Beach City Councilman Jerry Johnson.
Gulf Shores public works director Mark Ackerman pointed out one of the existing bridges was closed for more than a day because of a barge collision in 2014.
Thursday’s hearing comes just weeks after Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on the nearby Florida’s Panhandle as a Category 4 storm killing 45 people.
The Alabama DOT is accepting public comments for the rest of the month. It plans to decide on a plan early next year.
“We want to improve community connectivity, said Vincent Calametti, Southwest Region Engineer for the transportation department.
Supporters say a new bridge would improve congestion that clogs roads heading to the beach during peak travel months. More than 6 million people visit the state’s beaches each year.
Opponents say it’s a waste of money and should not be a top priority for transportation funds. They say the project might not get tourists to and from the beaches any faster, calling it a “Bridge2Nowhere.”
Other opponents say the Mobile area has more important needs, including the widening of U.S. 98.
Some residents living near the proposed bridge site are worried about noise and the appearance in the neighborhood.