City looks into plan to convert Grants Mill bridge into toll road

By Ashley Nix

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Mayor William Bell says he has made no decision about a proposal that would turn the closed Grants Mill Road bridge into a toll bridge. The bridge was deemed unsafe in December 2009. It has been shut down ever since.

Birmingham is paying an engineering firm to conduct studies to fix the bridge. But in the meantime, Bell has the interesting proposal on the table.  It's a proposal that would charge people who want to use the bridge.

"The proposal indicated they would expand it to handle greater traffic along that way, that's one of the things I'm looking at.  But at the end of the day, if all people want is a bridge, then they'll have a bridge. The question is will they go beyond that to give them something more," Bell said.

Toll talk isn't welcoming news to councilor Kim Rafferty, who serves the area where the bridge is located.  "It's such a ludicrous idea I can't even begin to understand why anyone would take a small country road and pop a quarter to go across a small country bridge," Rafferty said.

Developers say the charge would likely be around a dollar and the project would be more than just replacing the bridge itself.  The work would entail expanding the road, putting lighting in and also making the intersection at Highway 119 and Grants Mill Road larger.  Bell says the hope is the improvements would act as a reliever for Highway 280 traffic.

Rafferty says she's not sure anyone would actually pay to drive on the reliever.  "The toll isn't going to serve any purpose, other than to line somebody's pockets," Rafferty said.

Mayor Bell says his staff is reviewing the proposal and should have a recommendation soon.

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