This photo was taken shortly after 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening as ALDOT crews took a closer look at the pothole that developed in the center lane of I-20/59 eastbound just after Carraway Blvd. (and shortly before the 31st St. N. exit). Yes, that’s concrete you see hanging from the roadway, though it doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
Alabama’s 13 reported seeing as many as 13 cars damaged along the side of the road due to the hole. Fox 6 WBRC-TV reported less cars while estimating the size of the hole as between 4-5 feet wide.
The hole developed in a section of the interstate slated to be replaced as part of proposed plans by ALDOT. The Birmingham City Council is already scheduled to meet with ALDOT officials next Wednesday beginning at 4 p.m. at the agency’s offices about those plans and will most likely bring up concerns raised by groups including Rethink 20/59 and area business leaders.
A meeting on Thursday evening of area residents gathered for an event entitled “Save Birmingham from ALDOT’s plan for I-20/59 downtown” has launched an online effort to raise awareness about the current proposals being considered.
The group, calling themselves Rethink 20/59, has created a fan page on Facebook. They have also posted a link to a petition via Change.org directed at Birmingham mayor William Bell, the Birmingham City Council, the Jefferson County Commission and Alabama governor Robert Bentley asking them to “rethink the plan for Interstate 20/59″ through the city center. The city and county had asked ALDOT last July to reconsider its initial plan to simply re-deck the existing section, leading to the current proposal. The council already stated during their June 18 general business meeting that they intended to meet with ALDOT’s director when he is in town next week.
A second petition launched on June 19 on Causes.com and created by Stuart Oates entitled Save Downtown Birmingham. It currently has 22 virtual signatures.
This latest development among those speaking out against plans to replace the decking between 31st St. N. and Malfunction Junction and redirecting local traffic patterns is not without precedent in the country. While efforts are underway in Dallas, TX to influence the removal of Interstate 345, the campaign most closely resembling Birmingham’s in the southeastern United States is in Louisville, KY, where 8664 is using Facebook in its fight to remove the Interstate and reconnect a waterfront park to the city’s downtown area. There is also a continuing effort in Syracuse, NY to look at alternatives to widening a stretch of I-81 through the heart of downtown (and coming extremely close to existing buildings in the process).
Photo: 2009 Rendering from ONB Breakfast Briefing presentation.
There’s yet another opportunity for interested residents to learn about the proposed changes that ALDOT wants to make along I-20/59 through downtown Birmingham this week. A Facebook event has been created inviting folks to the Norwood Community Center on the city’s northside tomorrow (Thursday) evening, April 18, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
The current preliminary plans for the I-20/59 bridge replacement project were unveiled during a public hearing held public involvement hearing on March 28 at Boutwell Auditorium. It is said to incorporate comments made during an earlier hearing held last summer. The proposed changes to the section of interstate running through Birmingham’s city center are also available for review via a PDF on ALDOT’s website.
NOTE: If you’re thinking of downloading the file, it’s just under 5 MB in size.
The plan includes removing all the entrance and exit ramps located between 17th and 25th Streets. That area is home to several city center destinations, including the BJCC, the Birmingham Museum of Art, Boutwell Auditorium, and the Jefferson County Jail. The existing roadway in this section would be replaced with one sitting higher off the ground and built using a method known as segmental concrete construction.
There are proposed modifications that make 11th Avenue North the main thoroughfare. Residents living in Norwood would lose access to the portion of 28th St. N. currently running underneath I-20/59 and they would no longer be able to exit eastbound off the interstate at 31st St. N.
The plan shows Fountain Heights would also see reduced access to the portions of the neighborhood closest to where 11th Ave. N. provides access onto I-20/59 and I-65. There would be no access from 15th or 16th Sts. N., forcing most traffic onto 17th St. N.
Motorists would see portions of 24th St. N. ( between 11th and 12th Ave. N.) and 25th St. N. (between Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr., Blvd. – formerly 8th Ave., N. – and 12th Ave., N.) be removed. They would also see vehicular access along 9th Ave. N. disappear.
The front page of the project’s website states the period for public comment has been extended “10 days from 4/10/2013.” Its contact information page provides an email address and a phone number for you to use if you’re so inclined.
Those interested can also review the slides used for the March 28 presentation (or just head out over to Norwood on Thursday).
If you were upset you missed the public meeting held last July about the proposed changes to the portion of I-20/59 running through downtown Birmingham, you’re in luck. ALDOT will be holding another public involvement meeting next Thursday, March 28, in Boutwell Auditorium‘s exhibition hall. The open house will take place from 4 – 7 p.m., with a public comment period occurring from 5 – 6 p.m.
Based on the flyer being distributed through neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the well-traveled stretch of asphalt, the purpose of the meeting is to go over plans for replacing the elevated section of I-20/59 between the 31st St. N. and I-65 interchanges. It also states they will also be talking about modifications to both of those interchanges in addition to an “11th Avenue Corridor Reconstruction from I-65 to I-59/20.”
Those who’ve driven over to take a look at the new Westin hotel and Uptown entertainment district in recent days have probably noticed an increased presence by crews conducting soil testings (as reported on al.com on March 17). There may also be discussion about the effects of an expanded scope of project and whether any property will need to be acquired in order to carry it out.
There are some who drive along 14th Street daily to check on the progress of the new home for the Birmingham Barons, Regions Field. Many of them watch to see just how they’ll finish it in time for Opening Day in April.
Well, for the time being, those cars will need to be driving along 1st and 3rd Avenues South instead in order to check on progress as detour signs greet cars as they approach those intersections.
This is the way it is expected to be for approximately the next month as construction continues on the sporting venue located across the street from Railroad Park. One thing to note – Good People Brewing Company‘s taproom will maintain its current operating hours. It just means that you’ve got to park alongside Railroad Park or on 2nd Ave. S. between 14th and 15th Streets and walk to it. It also means the 2nd Annual Birmingham Brewnanza Brewery Collectible Show being hosted by the local chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America is still on too, and that’s a good thing.
There’s some other stuff happening nearby as recapped on the Birmingham Business Journal‘s website earlier today as a result of another pending deal to build housing along the park.
It’s an interesting contrast if you step back and think about it – two recent lists look at how Alabama’s largest city handles its ever-growing traffic situation with differing messages.
This morning the Birmingham Business Journal shared information courtesy of a new report by their company’s in-house data investigation unit, On Numbers, that ranked Birmingham 347 out of 373 metro areas in terms of traffic congestion.
The city did finish faring better off than Dallas-Fort Worth, TX (358); Orlando, FL (359); Miami, FL (364); Houston, TX (367); and Atlanta, GA (372).
While it appears that you’ll be on the road for a while attempting to get to and from work, it’s also true that the city sees less accidents occur involving drivers under the influence. It’s not necessarily great news when you consider it’s still considered a cause for 13.6% of fatal crashes involving alcohol, regardless of population size, between 2000-2010. It was good enough though for John Nelson of IDV Solutions‘ UX Blog to recognize it had the lowest percentage of such fatalities among cities across the nation.
The black circle on the image up above helps you identify metro Birmingham on the map.
He published the data as part of providing a more exhaustive explanation of the findings he used to create an interactive map just before New Year’s Eve. Folks are getting a chance to dig into the data a little deeper courtesy of a post made yesterday to The Atlantic Cities.
It’s interesting when looked at in conjunction with the census tract data visuals we wrote about yesterday…
A small crowd gathered upstairs at Birmingham’s Boutwell Auditorium to learn about plans for the replacement of 6,600 feet of bridge deck between U.S. Highway 31 and the area known to many locals as Malfunction Junction.
Those in attendance did learn about how that plan would proceed, including receiving some clarification about reports of the project taking two years. The first year would allow for things like electrical power to lighting along the highway to be relocated (possibly below ground) and for the estimated approximately 100 sets of steel girders to be ordered for the project – meaning little disruption for motorists. One direction would then be shut down for up to 25 weeks during the second year, with the other one being shut down afterward. This is similar to what recently happened along the portion of I-20/59 in Bessemer (here’s the official project page) – a contract with incentives built in to encourage it to be completed as soon as possible.
Motorists looking to avoid the construction while passing through the metro area would be encouraged to use Interstate 459 since planned highway projects cannot be rerouted along city streets (though officials did announce that three northbound and three southbound city streets running under the span would need to be open throughout the process).
After the update, those in attendance were informed by Brian Davis, ALDOT‘s division engineer for the region that includes Birmingham, that both the city and Jefferson County had asked for the agency to consider completely replacing the section of road from the ground up in order to address several issues (including sound from the roadway) – and that they would be investigating the option before going forward.
There was no timetable available for when that investigation would be finished and how long it would hold up the start of the project if it was deemed an appropriate alternative.
While major construction would not interfere with the expected opening of The Westin Birmingham on January 1, 2013, it may be an issue for those planning to open businesses in what’s currently being referred to as The Marketplace later on next year.
One can hope that most people will in fact ride their bikes to Railroad Park on Friday morning to take part in the now annual National Bike to Work Day group ride through downtown Birmingham…
Due to the average commute distance for most working in the city’s central business district (or the time they normally have to leave for work in the morning), it would be OK to forgive a few for bringing the bike into town via a bike rack – for now. There have been several improvements made in the area in the past year, including the installation of bike lanes, particularly along 2nd Avenue South and 14th Street (pictured above). The area around Railroad Park will serve as the starting and ending points for this year’s group ride; the official route (available in PF format) will take riders through Central City near Linn Park, Lakeview and the UAB campus.
Event organizers CommuteSmart and the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham have even created a video to help advertise this year’s effort.