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Senator uses Mobile bridge contract to ‘slow things down’ on toll debate

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A contract between the Alabama Department of Transportation and a law firm for work on the proposed I-10 toll bridge over Mobile Bay was delayed Thursday over a senator’s concerns about toll costs.

“I represent most of Baldwin County and there are a lot of questions and concerns that have not been responded to,” Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, told Alabama Daily News after the Legislative Contract Review Committee meeting. “So I think there is a feeling in general that we need to slow things down, get our questions answered, figure out if this is really the best way to do it before we carry on with the toll bridge.”

Maynard, Cooper & Gale is the law firm that has been working for two years with ALDOT to advise on any technical and legal details related to the I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge proposal and Wallace Tunnel. The contract extension of two years is asking for up to $750,000.

Albritton said he wanted to postpone the contract f because he still had questions about the project and concerns about the possibility of a toll being placed.

Tony Harris, a spokesman for ALDOT,  told Alabama Daily News that the current contract expires at the end of September.

The contract review committee can’t kill a contract, but can delay it for up to 45 days. When that time is up, the contract goes to the governor for final approval. By the time the existing legal contract has expired, the new one could be approved, creating no delay for ALDOT or their legal team.

The U.S Department of Transportation recently awarded $125 million toward the construction of the proposed I-10 bridge project.

The grant is only expected to cover about 6% of the estimated $2.1 billion cost of the bridge and bayway project. The possibility of a $6 one-way toll on the bridge has caused a lot of controversy with the project and urging from constituents to find other sources of revenue.

Legal contracts for abortion ban defense

Three more legal contracts were approved Thursday from the Attorney General’s Office for more outside counsel to help the state defend its new abortion ban against a lawsuit brought on by abortion providers.The law makes performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider.

Each contract is for up to $75,000, Another contract for up to $75,000 was approved last month.

Two of the expert witnesses, Justin Dryer and Dr. Michael New are political science professors and the third,  Maureen Condic is a neurobiologist at the University of Utah specializing in pediatrics.

The law is set to take effect in November but a recent court filing showed that the state may hold off the ban until 2020 to let legal challenges play out in court.

Attorneys for the state and abortion providers submitted a joint status report to a judge in July indicating the two sides would agree to delay the law if it’s not possible to resolve the case before November, according to the Associated Press.

The court filing said they would agree to a temporary restraining order until May 24, 2020 to allow time to resolve the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson gave the state until Aug. 5 to respond to that request.

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