Alabama and Florida could very well become even more neighborly if a toll road is built from the new international airport in Panama City to Montgomery. The proposed toll would parallel Highway 231.
"It's a huge project," said Alabama Governor Bob Riley.
The governor's on board.
"The only way to stay ahead of the curve is to do something like this," said Governor Riley.
And from all indications, it appears Florida is interested as well. In two weeks Washington County, Florida, commissioners plan to hold a public hearing. The agenda says a group called Focus 2000 is interested in building the highway.
"Alabama has never done anything like this," Governor Riley said.
True but other states have and it appears to be a growing trend.
"You look at Virginia, Indiana, and Texas and what they're doing. The infrastructure in this country and in Alabama is 50 years old," said Governor Riley.
50 years old and the Governor says waiting for the Federal Government to do it could take 25 years or more to complete the project. Supporters of the plan say a private company can build a quality interstate highway much faster without the constraints of government red tape.
Yet hurdles remain along with big questions; is it affordable for the investors; is there enough traffic to make it worthwhile and will politicians from Florida all the way through Montgomery agree with the idea.
"I am an optimist," Governor Riley said.
Still, Governor Riley believes this is doable if the studies being done now by both states and investors show that it can work.
"This could easily be a corridor from Florida to Montgomery, so as we get those results back, we can be a little more definitive," said Governor Riley.
One estimate has the cost of building the toll between $1.7 to $2 billion dollars. Governor Riley declined to speculate whether construction could start in 5 years. Much of that he says depends on those additional feasility studies. Alabama has already spent $200,000 on one study and it came back as 'inconclusive,' according to Governor Riley.