The Alabama Supreme Court decided Friday that the state could continue construction of a new road that would give motorists a different route to the state beaches.
The justices overturned an injunction that was issued by a Montgomery Judge, which had stopped work on a bridge crossing the Intracoastal Waterway. Injunction issued by a Montgomery judge after operators of a toll bridge filed judicial action against the state. The justices ruled that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim of bad faith which was the basis for the preliminary injunction.
Construction will resume soon, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation.
This is a major victory for Alabama coastal residents as well as millions of visitors. Tony Harris, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said that the need for a free new bridge was obvious.
He said that the bridge would help reduce traffic congestion along the coast, and also provide an extra evacuation route during hurricane seasons.
Baldwin County Bridge Company filed a suit to stop the construction of a new bridge just 1 mile from their existing toll-bridge. The company claimed that John Cooper, the Transportation Director, acted with bad faith in negotiations for lower tolls and other operational changes. He then pursued the construction of the new bridge to financially harm the company.
Neal Belitsky is the president of Baldwin County Bridge Company. He told al.com that “today’s decision sent an unfortunate message to business owners across this country – come on notice to Alabama, because anything an unelected official decides to do against you, he will do, and you have no power to stop him, even if it was done in bad faith.”
In May, Montgomery Circuit Judge Jimmy Pool sided with toll bridge company and issued a preliminary order ordering the halt of construction. Pool stated that trial evidence proved Cooper had pushed for a new bridge without traffic analyses and only once discussed it with the Governor.