We have Alabama’s largest parking lot

Highway 280 East of Birmingham

I was on Hwy 280 driving towards Birmingham near Lloyd’s…

I’m still on Hwy 280 near Home Depot…

Creeping down Hwy 280 across from Riverview Animal Clinic

I’m thinking, “Why in heck am I still in my car?  I may never get back to the office.”

As luck would have it, I was returning to write my usual ComebackTown blog on how our fragmented and dysfunctional government is killing us.

And there’s not a better example than Hwy 280.

Have you ever wondered after years of trying, why we’re unable to solve this unending problem?

In fact our latest and greatest plan is improved traffic light sequencing.

So why can’t we make a decision?  After all, our State has announced numerous plans—including an elevated highway.

It’s our usual inability to come together as a community to develop a common solution.  Sound familiar?

Hwy 280 impacts five municipalities and two counties

  • Birmingham
  • Homewood
  • Mt.Brook
  • Vestavia Hills
  • Hoover
  • Jefferson County
  • Shelby County

Each wants something different.

Who’s right and who’s wrong?

It depends on what we are trying to accomplish.

Are we looking for speed and efficiency; are we looking to create traffic for the merchants along the highway; or are we looking at the aesthetics?

Even our State has a different objective than many of the mayors.

As John Cooper, Director of ALDOT, said in a recent speech to Leadership Birmingham, “ALDOT’s goal is to move people through.  Mayors want to move people on, off, and around.”

Almost every issue in our region revolves around too many government entities looking out for their own interests.

Do I blame them?  No, but as usual, no one has the authority or the foresight to do what is best for our region.

David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.

David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Relationship Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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13 thoughts on “We have Alabama’s largest parking lot”

  1. This baffles me too, David. I used to travel to Austin, TX frequently. Interstate 35 runs right through downtown and is a double decker. It’s not an eyesore and it make 5 o’clock so much more pleasant. 

    I hate to see great plans that never get action because of a small group of naysayers. As it stands now, I avoid 280 like the plague! 

  2. *David you said, “No, but as usual, no one has the authority or the foresight to do what is best for our region.”  I respectfully disagree.  Highway 280 is a U.S. highway under the control and responsibility of the State of Alabama, not Municipal/Local governments.  Cooperation and good relations are necessary between all involved, but when the safety, wellbeing, and effectiveness of a public service has been mandated by law (the Alabama Department of  Transportation) then the RESPONSIBILITY for resolving issues such as Highway 280 rest squarely on their shoulders.  In other worlds, John Cooper’s boss needs to tell him to get on with his job!

    1. Tom, ultimately John’s boss is the public. And Aldot is not going to spend a bizzion dollars only to have a large part of the population angry. Our community needs to find a way to build consensus on 280 and many other issues. Unfortunately in our region there are two many cooks in the kitchen.

  3. *With respect, David, you remarks tell of the answer.  To do exactly what you propose: create consensuses, form committees, be politically correct, don’t “upset” anybody’s kingdom, etc.; and what happens?  Everything that now frustrates you, NOTHING!  My friend, what’s said about doing the same old thing over and over and expecting a different outcome???  Knowing you, I’m sure you and other enlightened citizens are well schooled in “making Birmingham come back”, therefore I encouraging you to move beyond the rhetoric and tired expressions and present an ACTION PLAN.  Could Highway 280 be a good First Action Item?

    With best regards and admiration,

  4. Tom, you are my new best friend.  We have to attack government structure.  I’ve come to the conclusion that regional cooperation is pretty much a dead end.  Please consider reviewing the “About us Page” on our ComebackTown website.  http://www.comebacktown.com/sample-page/

    Also consider signing up for our e-mail newsletter if you haven’t done so already & encourage others to do so.  There is power in numbers.  http://www.comebacktown.com/enewsletter-sign-up/

  5. I LIVED IN ATLANTA FOR 30 YEARS AND, TRUST ME ON THIS, PEOPLE IN B’HAM HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CONCEPTION OF WHAT BAD TRAFFIC REALLY IS. THAT BEING SAID, SINCE MOVING BACK ABOUT 8 YEARS AGO, I’VE FOUND THAT MOST PEOPLE IN B’HAM ALSO DON’T HAVE ANY CONCEPTION OF WHAT A COOL TOWN THIS REALLY IS, TREMENDOUS POTENTIAL. THERE SEEMS TO BE AN INFERIORITY COMPLEX BUSINESS PEOPLE HAVE WITH ATLANTA AND I’M ASKED FROM TIME TO TIME HOW THE TWO STACK UP AND WHAT B’HAM SHOULD DO TO GROW. THE ANSWER I GIVE IS PRETTY SIMPLE, LOOK AT WHAT ATLANTA HAS DONE WRONG, TRAFFIC, SPRAWL, WATER ISSUES OUT OF CONTROL GROWTH AND DON’T DO THAT ! NOW IN BIRMINGHAM, I DO UNDERSTAND THIS WILL BE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE WITH THE GOOD OL’ BOY NETWORK, THE CRONYISM THAT EXISTS HERE. FORTUNATELY, THAT TO SEEMS TO BE DYING OUT FROM ATTRITION AND PRISON IF NOTHING ELSE. I WILL SAY THIS, IN ATLANTA DURING THE 60’S, THE ISSUES IT HAD WERE VERY SIMILAR TO WHAT B’HAM HAD THEN AND STILL HAS TODAY. THE ONLY THING THAT SAVED ATLANTA FROM ITSELF WERE THE BUSINESS LEADERS, NOT THE POLITICANS,UNITING FOR THE GOOD OF THE REGION, NOT THE INDIVIDUAL TOWNS AND MUNICIPALITIES. IF THAT CAN HAPPEN HERE, YOUR 280 TRAFFIC PROBLEM CAN BE SOLVED AMONG OTHER THINGS. IF YOU LEAVE IT UP TO THE POLITICANS IN BIRMINGHAM, VESTAVIA (WHERE I GREW UP), HOMEWOOD AND UNINCORPORATED JEFFERSON COUNTY TO SOLVE WITH EACH ONE LOOKING OUT FOR THEIR OWN BEST INTERESTS, WHICH THEY ARE BEING PAID TO DO, I THINK YOU CAN SEE WHERE I’M GOING HERE. I REALLY LIKE THIS TOWN AND AM HAPPY TO BE BACK. IF I CAN HELP IN ANY WAY, LET ME KNOW.

    *

    1. Mike, Thank you for your very well thought out comments. I, as you, love Birmingham. We have great quality of life. But the region is stagnant. No area can stay as is. It must have at least some controlled growth. You are right about leadership from the business community, but the business community is stymied by dysfunctional government . Until we fix that, we are going to be stuck. Please consider signing up for our newsletter and getting others to do so. http://www.comebacktown.com/enewsletter-sign-up/ When we have enough people educated about the root cause of our problems, then we can move forward. Glad to have you back home.

  6. *Local governments and their problems aside, I have driven 280 daily for over 25 years.  I know there are problems but the real jam is from the Summit to just beyond Chik Fil A.  This traffic jam is primarily caused by the Summit, 459 emptying on to 280, and the Target Center.  After Chik Fil A, it opens up and gets much better. You would think govrnment would have given these developments more thought (not really).

    If they would do a “fly over” from the Summit to just beyond Chik fil A and adjust the lights properly much of the problem would be eliminated at a fraction of the cost.  If you will look,  the natural terrain lends itself well to such a ‘flyover”.  There would be little impact on the enviroment and it would actually help business.

  7. *I recently went to Durham, NC with my son’s to a USA Baseball event.  One of the most noticeable things we recognized was the quality of their interstates and roadways. We found few, if any, poor roads, 6 and 7 lane interstates between and through all of the adjoining municipalities,  They also are developing light rail to service the surrounding communities such as Charlotte, Cary, Durham, and others.

    After some research, I discovered some similarities between Birmingham and the Charlotte/Durham area, and some significant differences. First, we share an abundance of colleges within a 100 mile radius, we have a substantial research industry, we have a minor league baseball team, and the population size is comparable. This is where the similarities end.

    The NC Highway Department employs a large amount of engineers, who by the way, are graduates from local colleges.  They plan well, design well, and implement well.  They hold road contractors to a higher standard.  The Charlotte/Durham has a research triangle that is not just set up for one type research.

    The Birmingham/Jefco/Shelby interstate system is a travesty and embarrassing.  Our colleges compete instead of cooperate.  We have no regional plan and we all refuse compromise and reason together.

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