When the new Mobile River Bridge is finally built (really, it's getting built) and becomes the mainline for I-10, the Wallace Tunnel will still exist -- probably as on-ramps and off-ramps to the interstate. The Wallace Tunnel will remain an option to cross the Mobile River.
But even if you use the Wallace Tunnel instead of that fancy new toll bridge, you're still going to pay the toll.
Allison Greg with the Mobile River Bridge Project confirms that both the new bridge and the tunnel will be tolled to the tune of $3 to $6, although no final decision on price has been made. The story from NBC-15 News also notes that you'll still be able to avoid a toll, simply by taking the Causeway.
And that brings us right back to a serious potential problem that I mentioned more than a year ago.
People will avoid tolls if they can, and the easy way to opt out of paying the toll will simply be to take the Causeway/Bankhead Tunnel. The higher the toll, the more people who will find a way to bypass it. The large number of toll avoiders will likely create gridlock on the streets of Downtown Mobile, especially near the entrance to the Bankhead Tunnel. It will make using the Causeway a traffic nightmare, making our great Causeway seafood restaurants (like the Original Oyster House) tough to get in and out of.
But a $2 billion project has got to be paid for, so tolls were always going to be part of the Mobile River Bridge solution. And there are really just two ways to avoid massive traffic on the Causeway: have no tolls at all on the Bayway, or place tolls on both routes. Neither is being considered, and the 'no toll' option is a non-starter.
So the obvious, if unpopular solution, would be to toll both roadways across Mobile Bay. This would allow for lower tolls, because everyone crossing the Bay would pay them -- not just those crossing via I-10. And for those who are just going to a Causeway restaurant, I've suggested that you should pay a toll only if you go all the way across to the other side of the bay, so as not to disrupt these businesses.
ALDOT isn't currently considering a toll on both roadways, but don't be surprised if it happens. Because if it doesn't, the large number of people avoiding the toll will make it hard to pay the debt service on this $2 billion project.