The Alabama Department of Transportation always comes up with some wacky ideas for the roads in Alabama. A few weeks ago, I talked about the major traffic problems occurring due to the detoured Interstate 20 traffic merging into one lane at the I-459 interchange. I suggested they two-lane the ramp. And after major traffic problems, two weeks later ALDOT finally 2-laned the ramp. If ALDOT listened to the public and the Geek Alabama blog, they would have 2-laned the ramp before I-20 was closed. Here’s a post talking about it. http://geekalabama.com/2013/03/14/the-upcoming-interstate-20-repaving-project/
ALDOT also had a lot of controversy when they proposed making some changes to U.S. 280 that would make the road dangerous. Sadly, they are moving forward with those plans. http://geekalabama.com/2012/12/06/the-crazy-u-s-280-alabama-corridor/
ALDOT now has plans to redo the Interstate 20 / Interstate 59 bridge through downtown Birmingham. The plans are to tear down the existing structure and replace it with a taller and wider bridge. The new bridge would eliminate the exit ramps into downtown Birmingham and new ramps would be constructed to connect all downtown traffic to 11th Avenue North. While the bridge is being torn down and re-built. The interstate would be closed down with all through traffic having to take I-459 or taking downtown city streets. Before the bridges are replaced, 11th Avenue North would be re-constructed into a 5-lane road for Interstate traffic to reach downtown. Here is the project plan.
Here is the project description from ALDOT:
“The project as proposed will be constructed in two phases. The first phase will construct the 11th Avenue North corridor improvements and ramp connections to I-59/20 and to I-65. The 11th Avenue North corridor will be used by local traffic accessing the CBD [Central Business District] during the second construction phase and on into the future.
“The second phase will be to replace the bridges on I-59/20 through the CBD. The bridge decks will be modified to incorporate auxiliary lanes and the existing steel girders that will be replaced with segmental concrete construction. This work will also include replacing the existing signing, Intelligent Transportation System and lighting elements along I-59/20. Vehicles traveling through Birmingham along I-59/20 will be detoured on I-459 during construction. Local traffic will be able to use the improved 11th Avenue North corridor to access the CBD.”
The current plan would cut-off more access to Birmingham neighborhoods like Norwood, Druid Hills, Fountain Heights, and Smithfield. These residents would have to take streets that will be filled with a lot of traffic to reach downtown. These residents would be divided by an even bigger freeway. I am going out to say this, I am NOT in support of the current plans supported by ALDOT. This plan would divide downtown Birmingham from the BJCC and the new entertainment district. Seriously, who would like to walk under a massive bridge to reach the convention complex?
Residents living in North Birmingham would have to get on busy streets to reach downtown which could impact their safety. And making 11th Avenue North a 5-lane highway right next to the BJCC will not be safe for pedestrians. What if ALDOT considered doing another plan? A plan to tear down the I-20/I-59 bridge through downtown and instead replace it with a park?
Or I-20/I-59 could be buried through downtown.
Several people in Birmingham wants ALDOT to permanently tear down the bridge to connect downtown Birmingham to the BJCC. This is an idea that has already been done in other cities in America. The group Congress for the New Urbanism has a page set up where they encourage cities to tear down old highways to re-develop cities. View it at: http://www.cnu.org/highways
And in New Orleans, residents are wanting a portion of I-10 along Claiborne Avenue torn down.
Residents are wanting ALDOT to re-route I-20/I-59 though the industrial areas in North Birmingham along Finley Ave. This plan would result in downtown being brought back together and it would get rid of the dangerous “Malfunction Junction” which many road geeks hate seeing! Here’s a map of the proposed relocated I-20/I-59.
I think ALDOT can do a better job with the current plan at hand. If ALDOT can not move I-20/I-59 to the north, why not bury the highway? No one visiting Birmingham and the BJCC would like to see a massive highway bridge right in front of them. Birmingham has developed a comprehensive plan for the city. You can view it at: http://www.birminghamcomprehensiveplan.com/
As of now, ALDOT seems to be interested in creating work for the road/bridge lobby rather than truly doing urban design. If ALDOT truly cared about this project, they would hide the highway so downtown can look better! They would also invest in mass transit so people would not have to drive cars. People need to realize that there is more you can do when you are not in a car! It will not kill you to walk a little bit to get to where you want to go. Downtown Birmingham is not dangerous! You just need to get out and explore!