Fewer Cars Mean Fewer Dollars


A new traffic report on highways leading into Baldwin County (Ala.) beaches not only illustrates how far-reaching the BP oil spill economic damages have been, but also offers interesting documentation of those damages for businesses farther from the actual beaches.

That could be important because Kenneth Feinberg has indicated that his Gulf Coast Claims Facility will take proximity to the beach into account in awarding claims. But what if your business relied on traffic going to and from the beach, and you can easily document a loss of traffic?

Dan Murtaugh of the Press-Register cites: “… state Department of Transportation reflected traffic numbers on Saturdays from May through July – days that many families would be checking in and out of beach condos and motels.” He also notes that these are roads traveled by many BP response vehicles. It’s a fairly large sampling, using more than 100 traffic counters.

Among Murtaugh’s findings:

  • The count fell from 22,821 last year to 21,907 at Interstate 65 in Baldwin about five miles south of the Escambia County line.
  • The count dropped from 46,462 last year to 44,347 on Ala. 59 about two miles north of the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.
  • The count fell from 27,155 last year to 24,128 on the beachfront highway – Ala. 182 – about 3½ miles east of Ala. 59.

The article quotes Robert Ingram, president of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, making the case that passing traffic is so important to many stores that if a drop in cars is related to the spill, it should be treated as a viable claim.

“You definitely could have a cause and effect further than 15 miles from the beach,” Ingram told the paper, “especially for stores on that main corridor that rely on that beach traffic.”

See the Press-Register story here: http://blog.al.com/live/2010/09/fewer_cars_on_the_road_another.html

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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