Alabama must think we’re chumps (and we are)

I-20 /59 Bridge Project
I-20 /59 Bridge Project

Do you have any idea what’s about to hit us?

D Day is October 1st, 2018—next year.

And we’re letting it happen without a whimper—because, quite frankly, it’s too late.

This is just another example how we in greater Birmingham accept our helplessness and lack of vision.

No wonder Atlanta passed us by. Folks in Atlanta would never accept our passiveness.

On about October 1st of next year the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will close I-20/59 through downtown Birmingham for about 14 months.

This would never happen to Atlanta.

Do you remember the Atlanta interstate fire April 1st that caused a bridge to collapse on I-85? It was estimated it would take months to repair. However, three sections of northbound I-85 and three sections of southbound I-85 were replaced by May 13th–just 42 days.

You’re probably thinking that our interstate has way less traffic than I-85 in Atlanta–so this may not be as big a deal for Birmingham.

It’s estimated 220,000 vehicles a day travel I-85 in Atlanta vs. 160,000 through downtown Birmingham–but I-20/59 is one of the busiest stretches of highway in the State of Alabama.

Neither Atlanta— nor any other city in its right mind would accept such a complete amputation.

You live Over-The-Mountain so it’s not your problem?

You may be thinking—“Oh, I live in Mountain Brook, Hoover or some point south of Birmingham—so this is no big deal to me.”

Well, guess where many of those detoured cars and trucks will be routed?  Yes, that’s right—I-459.

Trucks and travelers going through Birmingham have to go somewhere.

So this debacle will impact us all.

How did we allow this to happen?

The problem, as usual, is there’s no government entity or individual who has the authority or power to plan for our region.

That’s why we haven’t been able to agree on a permanent solution for Highway 280.

Highway 280 impacts five municipalities and two counties: Birmingham, Homewood, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Hoover, Jefferson and Shelby Counties.

What’s good for the City of Birmingham may not be best for Mountain Brook or Hoover–so we are gridlocked.

Why didn’t we see this coming?—now it’s too late

Actually, we did see it coming. Operation New Birmingham (now REV Birmingham) had serious conversations with ALDOT and the City of Birmingham more than ten years ago, but had no mechanism to have a broader community conversation. It’s not reasonable to expect the cities surrounding Birmingham like Mountain Brook or Vestavia Hills to take a leadership role in visioning the broad transportation needs of our region.

No one is in charge

Last year there was an effort by some business leaders to urge ALDOT to consider alternatives pursued by other metro areas, such as sinking the interstate or moving it out of downtown. But it was too little too late.

It’s imperative we find a way for our government entities to plan and collaborate with one another. Not working together has consequences.

So we must accept the fate of closing the interstate that passes through the center of the largest city in Alabama.

Birmingham was one of the last cities in America to complete its interstate system–now we make history again.

It’s pretty clear we are chumps.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter. There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham.

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9 thoughts on “Alabama must think we’re chumps (and we are)”

  1. “We” didn’t allow this to happen. The Birmingham Business Alliance did. Why don’t you ask them why they were so silent on the issue? Why don’t you ask them why they are the lap dogs of state government and fall right in line with the state philosophy of steering jobs away from Birmingham to Huntsville and Mobile?

  2. David when we started fighting this 4 years ago you fought us and said give up. Now you’re whining at what we’re getting. You are the one that did not stand up. You got what you fought for. Nothing. Where was this article 4 years ago. Can you not envision plans until they are built? Oh, thanks for nothing.

    Get ready for after it is finished, experts say it will make traffic on 65 worst. Who will be standing with their had out to fix what they messed up?

    1. James, Here’s a blog I published on July 23, 2013–4 years ago saying we were powerless to do anything.
      We should have had a unified vision and plan 10 years ago when we at ONB pushed for alternatives. As I said then and I say now, we have no political entity with enough resources and power to fight for our future. The City of Birmingham only represents 19% of the population of our metro. According to the recently released PARCA study, the Birmingham region is the most segmented in the Southeast. If you have some time, please consider reading: Our segmentation is killing us.

  3. Frankly I am glad this is happening. I like the I-20/59 downtown bridge. It is perfect where it is. I am glad it will not be buried or rerouted. It is a beautiful indicator that we are not trapped in the early 20th Century. I am too young to remember what was where this bridge is now before it was built but one of the goals of the Interstate Hoghway System was to eliminate undesirable slum areas and outmoded business districts wherever possible. It will be a long wait for it to be completed – probably longer than it should be – but once the new viaduct is finished , we will all be better off.

    1. Perfect where it is? Seriously? My wife and I moved here 3 years ago from Dallas. We saw first hand what the Klyde Warren Park did for the previous divide between downtown Dallas and Uptown Dallas. It was an amazing transformation.

      It’s a shame we missed this opportunity…

  4. David: RE: “Birmingham was one of the last cities in America to complete its interstate system…’

    The reason Birmingham had the last Interstate link was Governor George Wallace, not Birmingham government (which, by the way, was better then than what we have now). Wallace prevented the completion to certain left-leaning cities that did not support his election attempts.

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