FOLEY – Tolls on the Foley Beach Express bridge ended at noon Thursday, May 23, following action by Gov. Kay Ivey and city officials..

In a ceremony at Foley City Hall on Wednesday, May 22, the governor signed documents accepting the transfer of the bridge to the state. She said the move will be a benefit to the entire state and beyond. She said at that time that tolls would be discontinued the next day.

“This is good news for locals, for Alabamians across the state and for our visitors from near and far,” Ivey said. 

She said the transfer will help accommodate the growth in traffic to Alabama’s beaches.

“Our coast continues to experience rapid growth and success,” she said. “We are making the needed infrastructure improvements in the area that will help alleviate traffic congestion by Alabamians and others visiting our beaches. I’m proud of the significant progress we’re making on infrastructure projects. In fact, we’re making so much headway down here that I think folks in other parts of the state are taking notice.”

She said state and local officials worked to make the project a success.

“It took a lot of teamwork to get us to this point today and I know we’re all excited to officially put pen to paper and make this purchase official,” Ivey said.

Also taking part in the event were Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich, Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft, Baldwin County Commission Chair Billie Jo Underwood and Matt Ericksen, southwest regional engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Hellmich said the cooperation between local government and the state has been a key to the region’s success.

“We are partners in progress,” Hellmich said. “As we move forward here in Baldwin County, we are setting records for growth. Everybody in this room knows it and we want to continue that progress. We love where we live and we’re looking forward to the future ALDOT participation in projects that we have. We’re all here as partners in what we’re going to call progress.”

Craft said the transfer of the toll bridge and a third bridge planned over the waterway will help the area meet the demands of growth.

“We’re all rapidly growing here and with this new bridge it won’t stop,” Craft said. “We’ll continue to have opportunities to grow and offer access that is important to everyone that’s coming in here and making it easier to get here. It’s also important to everyone that’s here to get out and have an opportunity to get off the island also. So all of this is going to be helped by the third bridge and we are so thankful to have that.”

Kennon said state ownership of the Beach Express and eliminating bridge tolls will help more than the tourist industry.

“It’s wonderful and the kindness shown that eliminating the toll is well received from our residents and our tourists, especially our businesses because they just want to make a difference in their ability to see more people come across that ditch to spend money there in Orange Beach,” Kennon said. “So I am very happy we are where we are.”

The state is also taking over the Beach Express from the bridge north to Interstate 10. Baldwin County had maintained about 14 miles of that 25-mile route, while Foley maintained the remaining expressway.

Underwood said turning the highway over to the state will put the entire route under one jurisdiction and relieve county and city government from the cost of maintaining the expressway.

“The Baldwin County Commission is very, very grateful for ALDOT and the governor taking over the ownership and maintenance of the Beach Express,” Underwood said. “That maintenance part is huge for Baldwin County because it helps us alleviate local funds that we need to use to further our strategic goals, which is our No. 1 priority of increasing capacity and connectivity of local roads around here so that it will benefit all the people in Baldwin County.”

The Foley City Council voted May 6, to transfer the city-owned section of the highway, located between Alabama 59 and Baldwin County 12, to the Alabama Department of Transportation.

The city is now repaving and widening the Foley Beach Express. The repaving project is scheduled to be completed in 250 working days. The state will take over the Foley Beach Express when the improvement project is completed.

The expressway between the intersection of Alabama 59 in north Foley and the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in Orange Beach was completed by the city in 2000. 

Baldwin County added an extension north from Foley to Interstate 10. That section, known as the Baldwin Beach Express, was completed in 2014. The Baldwin County Commission voted in 2023 to transfer the county-maintained sections of the Beach Express to ALDOT.