Highway 280 tolls add up

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - State transportation officials said this week it would cost drivers about 20-25 cents per mile if their plan for a new tolled express lanes comes to reality.

Governor Riley and the state transportation department are anxious to begin work on their plan for expanding Highway 280 by adding lanes on the ground and on an overpass.

But it would take tolls to pay for the $800 million project and this week drivers got their first inkling of how much it might cost to take advantage of the new project.

ALDOT director Joe McInnes told the Rotary Club Wednesday he expects the tolls would be somewhere between 20 and 25 cents per mile to drive on the express lanes of 280, while the existing lanes would remain toll-free.

Would drivers be willing to pay that?

"It just depends," said Mt. Brook Mayor Terry Oden. "If getting in and out of town in a hurry is that big a deal for somebody, then it's certainly worth it. I don't know how that stacks up around the country. 20 cents, I don't think that's a big deal. You live in New York, go across the Triborough bridge, it'll cost you $1,000 a month up there."

Mt. Brook's mayor supports the governor's plan but says he sees signs that the coalition of cities who were also onboard may be dissolving.

"I'm seeing some waffling with my fellow over-the-mountain cities," Oden said. "At one time, everybody was onboard and I had it in writing from them. Now they're getting antsy and I don't know why."

Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos says his city is undecided but he heard a clear message from ALDOT this week.

If the community doesn't support this, this isn't going to happen, and there's not an alternate plan," Petelos said. "So as a city we're gonna look to see what's in the best interest of the city of Hoover and our community."

Governor Riley has made it clear he wants all of the cities along 280 to support his plan, but the idea and the pricetag for drivers may go forward either way.

"They can go out there and build whatever they want to, so I don't think that'll slow them down" Oden said. "They would like to have everybody on board and keep everybody as possible, but if it comes down to it, they're gonna go."