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ALDOT says climate report proves new Bayway bridge is needed

FILE / The eastbound US 90 to I-10 interchange over Mobile Bay suffered damage from Hurricane Katrina's storm surge in 2005, even though it was located about 80 miles east from the center of the storm, this US government photo shows. According to a new climate change report by the Trump administration, the current Bayway would be destroyed if a similar storm made landfall near Mobile Bay. (photo: http://mceer.buffalo.edu)

The Bayway could be destroyed if another powerful hurricane takes a direct shot at Mobile.

That's according to a new climate report from the federal government.

The report says the existing bridge connections were not built for intense waves and the bridge is not elevated high enough.

It's a threat to the community. To solve the problem the report suggests improving bridge connections, changing the shape of the bridge to reduce wave-induced loads and raising the bridge.

In a statement the Alabama Department of Transportation Mobile River Bridge Director, Matt Erickson said,

”ALDOT has already evaluated this option. Due to the cost and risk still associated with bracing old infrastructure, ALDOT determined raising of the Bayway was the most prudent solution. Due to the uncertainty of impacts to the Bayway from potential storm surge, contingency plans cannot be developed. As in the past, any bridge affected by a disaster is expeditiously inspected by our certified bridge inspectors and repairs made so the traveling public can safely pass”.

Allison Gregg with the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project says the report proves why the Bayway needs to be replaced.

"For us our path forward is to work on replacing the Bayway in the next five years," she said.

The project is estimated to cost $2 billion and will start in early 2020. It calls for a brand new bridge as well as building a new higher Bayway which will be able to withstand a powerful hurricane.

It would be completed in 2025 but that's seven years of vulnerability.

"A direct hit from a storm could take what would already be a bad situation and make it worse," University of South Alabama Earth Sciences Assistant Professor Steven Schultze said.

Schultze says rising sea levels are likely to continue and ramp up.

"We saw with hurricane Katrina 12 feet of water push into the bay and the storm itself made landfall 100 miles away," he said. "If we saw a storm of similar magnitude that could be very bad for Mobile Bay."

Gregg says she hopes the climate report increases their chances to get federal funding to help out with the project.

"We understand how important it is to get this issue addressed and hopefully we can get that federal support as well," she said.

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