The George Wallace Tunnel

Not long after entering Alabama on Interstate 10 is the City of Mobile, a port city of almost 200,000.  Right after mile marker 35 is a long bridge crossing Mobile Bay.  Signs warn trucks carrying potential hazardous material to exit at Government Street, then take the Cochrane-Africatown Bridge three miles upstream.

Also a good idea in the event of an accident in the tunnel.

Otherwise, the tunnel awaits…

The George Wallace Tunnel is located in downtown Mobile, and travels beneath the Mobile River.  The depth of the tunnel is 40 feet from the water’s surface to the top of the tunnel.  The length of the tunnel is 3,000 feet long, just over half a mile.

The twin tunnels carry Interstate 10, one eastbound and one westbound.

Built in 1973, the George Wallace tunnel filled in a significant gap in Interstate 10 by carrying four lanes of traffic beneath the river.  Due to the large ships coming through the Port of Mobile, a bridge was not a viable option.

Interstate 10 entering the George Wallace Tunnel.  By AltairisfarOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Before the tunnel opened, alternate routes were the two-lane Bankhead Tunnel just upriver, and the former 1927 Cochrane Bridge.

View inside tunnel, nearing the rise to street level. By Rian Castillo from Buena Park, USA (george wallace tunnel) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Namesake

George Corley Wallace was the 45th Governor of Alabama, who served two consecutive and two non-consecutive terms as Governor, his first term starting in 1963, and his last term ending in 1987.

He had a de facto extra term as Governor, as his wife, Lurleen Wallace was the 46th Governor of Alabama.  Her run as Governor was short and marred by illness, however, as she passed away in office from cancer less than 16 months after her inauguration.

Other Features

Cooper Riverside Park, a Mobile city park, sits atop the western entrance to the tunnel.  The three acre park was revitalized in 2014, and features walking paths, green space, and art sculptures.

Statue at Cooper Riverfront Park. By Lahti213 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A recreation of the 1720s Fort Conde was built over the very west end of the tunnel.  The recreated Fort Conde was opened on the nation’s bicentennial, July 4, 1976, just three years after the opening of the tunnel.

The interior of Fort Conde. By DXR (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Criticisms and The Future

Accidents within the tunnel can be a frequent occurrence in busier months of the year, and as a result, can backup traffic for many miles due to cars having nowhere to go.

Plans are in place to reroute Interstate 10 around the tunnel with a new 215-foot tall Mobile River Bridge.

The Wallace Tunnel would remain open for downtown access to Interstate 10 and/or a bicycle/pedestrian path.

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