A few months ago, I talked about the ALDOT mentality over the I-20 / I-59 Birmingham project. I complained about how the Alabama Department of Transportation was slamming this bridge replacement project down our throats. And they were even holding secret meetings with city officials behind closed doors with no media access. Since the time this project was revealed, many people have sounded off against this plan. Weld For Birmingham has written numerous articles about how this project would be bad for Birmingham, and I have written some articles as well!
Lately, multiple cities around the world have been either tearing down elevated freeways or putting them underground. San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and Milwaukee have all removed some elevated portions of freeway and replaced them with a at-grade roadway. Boston had the Big Dig and put the freeway underground in tunnels. And there are talks ongoing to remove elevated freeways in places like New York City, New Orleans, Syracuse, and even Nashville. There is a 50 year plan in place to tear down parts of the Nashville downtown freeway loop and replace it with parks and at-grade streets.
Oklahoma City had an old elevated freeway like in Birmingham but the Oklahoma DOT decided to move the Interstate. They moved I-40 south of the current location and tore down the old downtown bridge. Here is video of the old bridge.
And here is video of the new highway, much better in my opinion!
Birmingham can make a wonderful decision that brings the downtown area back together to the rest of the city. The I-20/59 downtown bridges are a physical and psychological barrier that has kept everything north of the bridges in a state of disarray. ALDOT has a wonderful chance now to correct the colossal mistake by removing the downtown bridge and putting in something better to make Birmingham a great American city. Picture the downtown BJCC Entertainment District without having to look at those old and ugly bridges. If you go to the BJCC for an event, you could sit on a bench in a park where the bridges were. You would see people exercising and kids playing in the grass. It would give a great impression of Birmingham!
Talks to replace the downtown bridge have ranged from replacing the bridges with an even bigger bridge to moving the Interstate to a new location. I am more in the camp of moving the current Interstate to a new location in North Birmingham. Many road geeks online have expressed interest in removing the current downtown bridges. And one road geek even came up with some maps of what a relocated Interstate would look like. Adam Froehlig (ajfroggie) came out with two different proposals for a rerouted I-20/59. Have a look below!
The good news is some political leaders in the City of Birmingham have expressed interest to removing the current downtown bridges for good. Councilman Johnathan Austin expressed interest in rerouting the Interstate to the Finley Boulevard corridor and he even called the bridges “Birmingham’s Berlin Wall.” I agree with Austin’s assessment that the new bridges would harm the business community and would be impacted negatively by allowing ALDOT to rebuild the bridges and making it higher, taller, wider and louder. Downtown Birmingham does not need this!
If ALDOT can spend billions of dollars to build I-422 or the Northern Bypass which I don’t agree with. They can spend the money to move I-20/59 out of downtown Birmingham. If ALDOT goes on with this plan to build the new bridges in downtown, Birmingham will become a laughing-stock while other cities are moving forward with downtown freeway removals. I wish ALDOT would listen to the majority of people who are wanting these current plans changed dramatically.
Yes, the bridges need to be replaced and they are getting old. But we should be uniting Birmingham and making downtown an inviting place for anyone to come. Not divide the entertainment district and downtown with a 10 lane eyesore. But like I said before, this is ALDOT. ALDOT does what they want to do no matter how many people are against them. A great comparison would be our US Congress, which does what they want, while against the people’s wishes.
Visit Rethink 20/59 on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Rethink2059
Sign a petition to stop the current plans at: https://www.change.org/petitions/mayor-bell-city-council-jeffco-commission-and-gov-bentley-please-rethink-the-plan-for-interstate-20-59-through-birmingham