ALDOT closed I-20/59 through downtown–and the sun came up the next day.
I don’t know if this has been a fiasco or a nonevent, but I do know it’s time we take control of our future.
Who is at fault?
I recently published a piece, No metro in the U.S. would tolerate what Birmingham is allowing to happen.
Some folks may have thought I was criticizing the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).
Others may have thought I was upset with the City of Birmingham.
I was not upset with either.
ALDOT was just doing its job–moving traffic.
And why should the City of Birmingham be the only government entity responsible for a major expressway that affects all of us?
I am upset with us.
Left with only one option
It’s sad how we just allow things to happen to us.
And we do it over and over again.
We were the last major metro in the U.S. to complete our interstate system.
Many cities have an expressway circling their perimeters. We do not—and probably never will.
Now we face 14 months of road closure and we were forced to accept the only option presented by ALDOT.
Rebuilding our downtown expressway should not have been our only option.
A better option
I totally agree with Ty West, the Editor & Chief of The Birmingham Business Journal. “For the future of Birmingham, we hope the region will remember the annoyances and pain caused by this project in hopes of laying the foundation to avoid a similar fate four decades from now.”
“The better alternative–as has been shown by numerous metros–is to not have elevated interstate bridges bisecting our downtown at all.”
Highways have become so expensive that many progressive cities are tearing them down.
Our bridge work project was originally projected to cost $450 million. The estimate now is $750 million.
We personally will pay for this construction one way or another. Governor Ivey is proposing an increase in our gas tax.
It will open your eyes when you read articles like the one in Business Insider, American highways are so expensive that cities are tearing them down…
“For many cities, it’s often cheaper to level the street grid than repair highways. And when neighborhoods remove freeways, real-estate values increase…highways — especially ones that cut through downtowns — (do) more harm than good…”
“They displace largely low-income communities, segregated neighborhoods, increased the amount of air and noise pollution, contributed to poverty, and devalued surrounding properties.”
“The growing movement to tear down freeway infrastructure symbolizes the nation’s changing attitudes about what future cities should look like.”
Or read the Gizmodo piece, Six freeway removals that changed their cities forever.
“It seems counterintuitive, right? Rip out eight lanes of freeway through the middle of your metropolis and you’ll be rewarded with not only less traffic, but safer, more efficient cities? But it’s true, and it’s happening in places all over the world.”
We must define our own future
To control our fate, we must demand vision, planning, and collaboration–not just for roads, but for education, crime reduction, public transportation, economic development…everything.
It’s a simple choice. We can continue to accept whatever happens to us or we can choose to plan and cooperate as a region to define our future.
Feedback welcome: Have you been impacted by the Big Dig?
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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