Move I-20/59

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Move I-20/59 Inc. is a non-profit group formed in 2015 to lobby for eliminating the existing elevated section of I-20/59 in downtown Birmingham.

The group's organizers include Paul Carruthers, William Cather Jr, James M. Clark, Robert Glaze, Chervis Isom, Richard Mauk and Henry Nelson. Darrell O'Quinn was tapped as executive director.

Move I-20/59 argues that the elevated interstate creates a barrier between downtown neighborhoods and a nuisance in the city center. They support alternatives such as lowering it below grade as proposed in the 2003 City Center Master Plan, or moving it north to Finley Boulevard, where it would parallel existing railroad tracks and Village Creek.

The existing bridge decks at I-20/59 downtown are already considered structurally deficient and in need of replacement.

Preliminary engineering work on the interstate lowering scheme was done by Parsons Brinckerhoff of New York.With minor changes, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) accepted their schematic design as feasible. Continued study with more detail models was performed in a collaboration with graduate traffic engineering students at UAB. Twenty percent of that work was funded by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham with the rest paid for through the federal Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In 2012 ALDOT announced they would proceed with replacement of the existing bridge decks in early 2013. Existing metered parking spaces beneath the old decks were roped off in August 2014.

The $700 million estimated cost of lowering the interstate had been deemed "too expensive to pursue". In July, Birmingham and Jefferson County officials asked ALDOT to evaluate the possibility of re-building the elevated highways from the ground up. After holding numerous public meetings, the agency decided to raise the elevation of the bridge and redesign the spans with fewer supports, eliminate some downtown access ramps and modify nearby exits at a cost of $450 million. That work began in July 2015.

Move I-20/59 Inc. argues that ALDOT did not sufficiently address the economic, social and environmental implications of their design as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Those claims were made in a federal lawsuit filed in October 2015 seeking a court's injunction against further work until those factors can be reassessed. Plaintiffs included O'Quinn, as well as Birmingham City Council president Jonathan Austin, Birmingham Board of Education president Randall Woodfin, property owner James M. Clark and residents Aime Evans, Teresa Carol, Merriam McLendon and Shirley Ellis.

References

  • MacDonald, Ginny (February 28, 2009) "Birmingham, Alabama seeks funds to rebuild downtown I-20/59 section below ground level." The Birmingham News
  • McMillan, Aneesa (March 26, 2009) "I-20/59 plan could cost $700M." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Tomberlin, Michael (September 12, 2010) "Plans to put I-20/59 under downtown Birmingham to take next step." The Birmingham News
  • Gray, Jeremy (May 8, 2012) "Major projects set for I-20/59 in Birmingham." The Birmingham News
  • Gray, Jeremy (July 19, 2012) "Birmingham, Jefferson County ask ALDOT to completely rebuild I-20/59 bridges rather than replace decks." The Birmingham News
  • Poe, Ryan (July 26, 2013) "Bridge of no return: The plan for Interstate 20/59." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (June 12, 2014) "No parking: Safety issues eliminate hundreds of Birmingham parking spaces near BJCC." The Birmingham News
  • Godwin, Brant (October 12, 2015) "Nonprofit formed to fight I-20/59 bridge replacement." Birmingham Business Journal
  • West, Ty (October 13, 2015) "Lawsuit filed to halt work on 20/59 bridge project." Birmingham Business Journal

External links

See also