Construction Has Begun on Northern Beltline

Hailed as Unparalleled Economic Development Engine

groundbreakingThe first shovels of dirt have been turned, signaling the beginning of construction on the long-awaited Northern Beltline.

Gov. Robert Bentley joined Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper, Rep. Spencer Bachus and dozens of local and state officials for a ground-breaking ceremony today in Palmerdale, Alabama. 

The ceremony took place at the first 1.34 mile Beltline segment, between Alabama Highways 75 and 79.

When completed, the 52.5-mile Beltline will run through the western and northern part of Jefferson County and join existing I-459 in Bessemer to I-59 near Argo.

“At long last, this much needed project is now officially underway,” said Mike Thompson, CEO of Thompson Tractor and Chairman of the Coalition for Regional Transportation.

“The Northern Beltline will have such a positive economic impact on our children and grandchildren.  This project will allow our metropolitan area to catch up to our neighboring southeastern states in transportation infrastructure that is so important to the continued growth of our area,” Thompson said.  “Our citizens deserve no less.”

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Northern Beltline Groundbreaking Ceremony Scheduled, Governor Bentley To Speak

The Coalition for Regional Transportation is pleased to announce the groundbreaking ceremony for the Northern Beltline will be held April 21, 2014. Governor Robert Bentley will lead the event which is expected to draw a significant number of elected officials from the federal, state and local levels.

This event will mark the long-awaited beginning of construction on the Northern Beltline which has been strongly supported throughout all the communities that make the Birmingham region a vibrant place to live and work. The jobs creation, economic growth opportunities, and improvements to cross-region accessibility and safety will benefit generations to come.

Northern Beltline Groundbreaking celebration

Monday, April 21, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Highway 75, Palmerdale, Alabama

  • From I-20, take Exit #128 (Highway 79N).
  • Drive approximately 12.2 miles North, then turn Right on Highway 75.
  • Drive approximately 3.4 miles then turn Right on Clay-Palmerdale Road.
The parking area will be on your left shortly after the turn on Clay-Palmerdale Road.
The area was formerly a mobile home park but now holds a few construction trailers. ALDOT will have staff on site to help guide parking.

Judge rules against Alabama enviromental group’s attempt to block Northern Beltline

Late Friday afternoon, a U.S. District Court ruled against Black Warrior Riverkeeper Inc., a local Alabama environmental group, in their request to block the start of construction for the Northern Beltline.

Yellow Hammer Politics Reports:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the permit for the first phase of construction on the beltline in September of last year. Less than a month later, theSouthern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeeper challenging the permit and seeking to block construction.

The lawsuit was based on the premise that beginning the first phase of construction — a 1.8 mile segment joining State Roads 79 and 75 — violated requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act stating that environmental impact studies must be performed before permits can be granted. The Corps of Engineers had conducted such a study on the first segment of construction, but not the entire 51-mile project.

The court found that “requiring the Corps to prepare [a study for each section of the beltline ahead of time] would likely result in the project never being started at all and would be useless and redundant.”

Read the FULL STORY at Yellow Hammer Politics


San Francisco-based environmental interests are funneling millions into Alabama

A recent media report shows that San Francisco-based environmental interests are funneling millions to the very Alabama anti-growth groups that are fighting the Northern Beltline and the much needed jobs and access for the Birmingham region that the Beltline would provide.

Yellow Hammer Reports:

Using data made publicly available by the Energy Foundation, here’s a quick snapshot of how much money environmental groups participating in the Alabama Public Service Commission hearings received, and what the funds were earmarked for:

  • Alabama Arise: $50,000 during the Alabama PSC hearings “to advance clean energy policies in Alabama.”

  • Alabama Environmental Council (AEC): $107,000 “to increase capacity and stakeholder engagement on clean energy issues in Alabama,” including $62,000 during the Alabama PSC hearings.

  • Alabama Rivers Alliance: $40,000 matching grant during the Alabama PSC hearings “to accelerate the retirement of coal-fired power plants in Alabama.”

  • Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Air Pollution (GASP): $70,000, including a $20,000 matching grant “to accelerate the retirement of coal-fired power plants in Alabama” and $50,000 “to increase capacity and support for clean air policies in Alabama.”

  • Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE): $810,000 for a wide variety of climate-related issues in the southeast, including $60,000 during the Alabama PSC hearings “to accelerate retirement of coal-fired power plants.”

  • Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC): $1.8 Million, including $60,000 during the PSC hearings “to accelerate retirement of coal-fired power plants in the Southeast.”

Read the FULL STORY at Yellow Hammer Politics


Anti-Growth Groups Oppose Projects Nationwide

In Case You Missed It:  The same anti-growth groups opposing the Northern Beltline, and the economic development that it would bring to the Birmingham region, are bringing nearly identical law suits and claims across the nation.  Here is a story coming out of Virginia where their lawsuit looks almost identical to the one they filed here.

The Suffolk News-Herald Reports:

Two environmental groups are calling for “careful reconsideration” of the potential impacts of a new Route 460.

In a joint submission to the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Southern Environmental Law Center and Chesapeake Bay Foundation say they support the decision to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement “in light of major new information concerning … serious environmental impacts.”

Read the FULL STORY at the Suffolk News-Herald