April 13, 2023
The Northern Beltline project in Jefferson County is back on the table after years of stalling.
Back in the 1990s, officials wanted to build an interstate loop around the Birmingham metro area.
Construction started nine years ago but was never complete. Since then, it’s faced setback after setback. Now, work is set to begin again on a four-lane, ten-mile segment that connects Highway 31 near Gardendale to Route 75 in Pinson.
“Birmingham is one of the very few cities of its size in the United States that lacks a complete connecting interstate route to serve its metropolitan area,” Gov. Kay Ivey said.
Some are noticing work already being done in Gardendale. After wondering what’s going on in the area for months, many like Matthew King are getting answers to their questions with today’s announcement.
“A lot of lane clearing and a lot of [Department of Transportation] trucks trying to figure out how the traffic’s going to go and just the nature of the movement of traffic,” he said.
But answers to those questions also bring up concerns for King. He believes traffic during the construction phase will get worse before it gets better.
“You’ll have to time your day more in order to get around cause you’ll realize what kind of traffic hits at certain times of the day like peak hours or rush hour,” King said.
The project is expected to create an alternate route for 18,000 semi-trucks to take daily, which would create safer travel and reduce traffic congestion.
“Because of all the bigger trucks, you’ll have to remember that those all that traffic is coming through here cause Birmingham is a major hub when it comes to interstate traffic,” King said.
Even though it may be a temporary inconvenience, King said he’s excited to see the project make travel easier for everyone.
“When it gets finished, it’ll be nice for normal people that aren’t truck drivers,” he said. “But right now, whenever they’re working on it it’ll probably be a nightmare.”
Gov. Ivey said alleviating traffic isn’t the only benefit of the belt line. She estimates it’ll bring economic development opportunities to the state and could even bring 20 industrial parks along the project.