I actually wrote this column last year, but decided not to publish it.
It just seemed too farfetched.
But now that the Senate has passed a trillion dollar infrastructure bill, this could be Birmingham’s and Alabama’s big opportunity.
It’s time for our Birmingham region to think big and bold.
Atlanta has beaten our butt at every turn.
Atlanta won the super airport. Atlanta won major league sports.
Atlanta won big businesses. Atlanta won the aquarium.
Atlanta also won the traffic, overcrowding, and long commutes.
But Birmingham won the biggest prize–a great place to have a family and raise children.
We are not going to be successful playing Atlanta’s game, but we can be successful playing Birmingham’s game.
Birmingham has an extraordinary quality of life and sense of community—and we could build our foundation on that.
Let’s take advantage of Atlanta’s proximity to our advantage.
According to the BBJ, Richard Finley, president of Finley Group, has advocated for High Speed Rail (HSR) for decades. He previously received commitments from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia to fund the project but was never able to procure funding in Alabama. Finley says “The goal is to build elevated rail from Atlanta to Dallas that can travel a minimum of 120 miles per hour – preferably upwards of 160 miles per hour – in the next 10 years.”
He said HSR from Birmingham to Atlanta would allow passengers to travel between the metros in under an hour.
An hour commute from Birmingham to Atlanta is not much different than from what many Atlantans have now.
As we’ve discovered from the Coronavirus outbreak, living in overcrowded and congested cities is not necessarily a good thing—and we now know people can work from anywhere.
Dan Buettner, author of Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest says that “People who live in medium-sized cities are more likely to be happy than the anonymity of a big city or perhaps the too in-your-face, limited-possibility environment of a tiny town.”
Folks would be able to enjoy the many advantages of living in our Birmingham area—but be able to commute or visit Atlanta as needed.
Joe Fuller, a long time Birmingham proponent told me how I-22 from Birmingham to Memphis was originally planned to go from Memphis through Huntsville and then to Atlanta. He said Birmingham took a stand and was able to get the Interstate routed from Memphis to Birmingham.
I-22 took 40 years and cost billions of dollars, but Birmingham made it a priority—and made it happen.
The Gulf Coast is making a big push for High Speed Rail.
Birmingham needs to get its act together.
A bullet train would be great, but High Speed Rail would get the job done.
Birmingham doesn’t have to be Atlanta to be successful.
Birmingham can take advantage of its proximity to Atlanta—and still remain Birmingham.
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David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. 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 for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org.