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.
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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. firstname.lastname@example.org