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State buys Foley Beach Express toll bridge: beach trips will be toll free next month

On Thursday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R), Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon and the Baldwin County Bridge Company on Wednesday announced the signing of an agreement for the state to purchase the Foley Beach Express Bridge in Orange Beach. The sale means that the bridge will become toll free immediately upon the ownership change, saving residents and tourists alike money; while substantially reducing traffic delays for folks waiting to cross the bridge, and ending ongoing legal issues between the parties over a competing bridge that the state is in the process of building.

"Alabama's Gulf Coast continues to experience record growth and success, and I am proud we are making needed infrastructure improvements in the area that will help alleviate traffic congestion for Alabamians and those visiting our beaches," said Governor Ivey. "I appreciate Mayor Kennon, the Baldwin County Bridge Company, the Alabama Department of Transportation and all those involved in this agreement that will lead to significant progress for our Coastal communities."

The sale is expected to close in May. The collection of tolls will cease at noon on the date of the closing. A date for the closing will be announced as soon as it is scheduled.

"This agreement is the result of collaborative efforts between ALDOT, the City of Orange Beach and the Baldwin County Bridge Company and was made possible by the city's willingness to forego annual financial benefits in order to achieve improved traffic flow for Orange Beach and Gulf Shores citizens and visitors," said Mayor Kennon. "On behalf of the Orange Beach City Council, I would like to thank Governor Ivey for working with us to eliminate tolls and improve traffic flow and efficiency to and from our Alabama beaches."

Neal Belitsky is the President of Baldwin County Bridge Company.

"Since 2000, the Baldwin County Bridge Company's staff have been honored to serve the community and are proud to have provided a safe and reliable route to the beach for nearly a quarter century," said President Belitsky.

When the transaction is finalized, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will operate the Beach Express Bridge toll free, initially carrying southbound and northbound traffic. ALDOT's construction of the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge will continue, with completion expected in Spring or early Summer 2026.

Once that bridge is completed, the Beach Express Bridge will be converted to carry northbound traffic and the new ALDOT bridge will carry southbound traffic – creating "one-way pairs," parallel paired bridges to move traffic more efficiently to and from Alabama's beaches.

The entire route from Interstate 10 will become a state highway to be named State Route 161.

Economic Developer Dr. Nicole Jones Wadsworth told the Alabama Gazette, "The State of Alabama's decision to take over the toll bridge and make it toll-free will have several benefits for Alabama residents and visitors including increased economic activity, improved traffic flow, and overall public image. Eliminating the toll reduces the financial burden on folks who commute to work as well as travelers who use the bridge regularly. Removing the toll barrier can lead to smoother traffic flow as vehicles no longer have to slow down or stop at toll booths, thus reducing congestion and travel times. Furthermore, the toll-free bridge will make the Gulf Coast more accessible to residents from rural areas in south Alabama, thus linking communities and improving regional connectivity."

Chey Garrigan is a Gulf Shores resident.

"This will greatly improve travel times in Baldwin County on weekends," Garrigan told the Alabama Gazette. "Traffic backs up for miles when everyone is arriving at the beach all at the same time and then it bottlenecks at the toll booths as tourists dig for change or their debit cards. It costs $5 to cross the bridge coming to the beach and $5 to cross it going back the other way. This will be a substantial savings for Alabama Gulf Coast residents."

"I applaud Governor Ivey for addressing this issue head on,

Under the terms reached by the parties, ALDOT will pay $57 million to Baldwin County Bridge Company for the bridge and another $3 million to the City of Orange Beach for local road improvements. ALDOT has also agreed to pursue widening Canal Road to five lanes between the new parallel bridges and an intersection improvement at the State Route 161/180 intersection in Orange Beach. Both of these projects were already included in the ALDOT's State Transportation Improvement Program for 2024-2027.

These agreements will resolve the lawsuit filed by the Baldwin County Bridge Company and terminate its contract with the City of Orange Beach.

The Baldwin County Bridge Company had sued the state in an attempt to block that new parallel bridge, which would have cut into their toll business once it was completed and claimed that the state was in breach of a contract the state had made with the Baldwin County Bridge Company not to build another bridge. The state countered back that the company was supposed to have widened the bridge, which they have not done. The $57 million purchase of the older bridge resolves that ongoing legal saga.

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