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Court declines to lift injunction blocking coastal bridge project

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A divided Alabama Supreme Court on Friday declined to lift a preliminary injunction blocking construction of a new coastal bridge.

Justices in a 5-3 decision declined the emergency request from the Alabama Department of Transportation to lift the injunction halting construction of a new bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway. The decision will leave the injunction in place as the legal fight goes forward over the project.

“While we are disappointed the Court has left the halt to construction in place for now, we are optimistic that the final ruling on our appeal will be in favor of building the new, free bridge,” Transportation Department spokesman Tony Harris said in a statement.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Jimmy Pool, siding with toll bridge operators that challenged the construction, last month issued a preliminary injunction ordering a halt to construction of the project.

Baldwin County Bridge Company, which operates the existing toll bridge to Gulf beaches, filed a lawsuit seeking to block construction of the new bridge that would be located just over 1 mile away from its existing toll bridge. The company argued that Transportation Director John Cooper acted in bad faith during negotiations on toll amounts and other operational changes, then pursued the new bridge project to financially damage the company.

“Director Cooper’s outrageous conduct in embarking on spending more than $120 million of State funds, on a bridge that ALDOT does not need, for the purpose of putting a private company out of business shocks the conscience of the Court,” Pool wrote.

Cooper had testified that the new bridge was needed to alleviate traffic congestion and give motorists a new route to state beaches.

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