JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) - Road closures on I-20 from Birmingham to Leeds are expected to cause headaches for more than 70-thousand drivers who travel it daily starting today.
ALDOT is suggesting alternatives, but no matter what expect delays. Traffic is going to be heavy on alternate routes.
The first half of this project will affect drivers heading east from Birmingham-and it's expected to take three months to complete. If you're coming from say- Talladega- you'll still be able to take I-20 West to Birmingham, but you'll have to take a different route back. ALDOT is recommending that people who would normally take I-20 East from Birmingham- take I-59 to I-459 and then take that to I-20 instead. That will bring you into the Trussville area where I-59 is already congested at rush hour- so an additional 10 to 15 thousand vehicles a day- will likely be a traffic headache.
You could take I-65 south from Birmingham to I-459 towards Atlanta, to I-20 East that would put you on the other side of the road work. Drivers can also take Hwy. 280 East to I-459 North to I-20 East from Birmingham.
All of these routes are already congested at rush hour. Throwing tens of thousands of additional vehicles into the mix will not help.
Hwy.78 runs parallel to I-20, but ALDOT is not directing traffic to 78 because of the traffic snarl that happened on U.S. 11 in Bessemer during road work on I-20/59 there.
Some commuters who travel to Birmingham from eastern counties are already tired of dealing with road work related delays and lower speed limits.
"I come from Pell City where they're doing the 3 lane thing so it's 45 throughout- so that's awful," said Chris Henderson.
Vita Carter makes the trek to Birmingham from Atlanta once a month. She's not excited about the changes to her trip this summer.
"So, I'm coming 20 to 78 and 78 is already congested with the 18 wheelers so... it's already congested," said Vita Carter. "That's just going to make it worse."
ALDOT Division 3 Engineer Brian Davis says everyone who will take one of these routes should plan to leave early and expect delays especially on the first day of the road work- April 9th.
The second half of the project will involve I-20 West. That is expected to start in July. All of the work is supposed to be finished by Thanksgiving according to Davis.
ALDOT released a statement on April 2nd that contained the following:
A project to improve Interstate 20 from I-59 in Birmingham to State Route 4 (US 78) in Leeds continues as the Alabama Department of Transportation announces lane closures on I-20 to perform paving operations in Jefferson County.
Beginning Monday, April 8 at midnight, weather permitting Phase II of the project will initially close the eastbound lanes of I-20 from exit 130 to exit 136 and is expected to last approximately 90 days.
To avoid lengthy travel delays, motorists are encouraged to use the signed local detours: Exiting I-20 East from I-20/I-59 South, take I-59 North to Exit 137 to I-459 South. Take I-459 south to Exit 29 to I-20 East.
Once the eastbound lanes are completed, the westbound lanes will close and a detour route will be used. A $30,000 per day incentive/disincentive is included in the contract with the bonus to the contractor calculated upon completion.
Plans are to do asphalt patching repairs on both eastbound and westbound lanes of I-20, which will involve having various lane closures from the I-20/ I-459 Interchange to the 1st Leeds Exit (Bass Pro Shop). Following the patching of both the eastbound and westbound lanes, they will be milled for slope correction and paved with asphalt binder, asphalt wearing surface and will then be restriped.
About 74,000 vehicles travel each day past the Birmingham airport and continue on I-20 to the U.S. 78 Exit that carries you to the Leeds Retail Outlet. The concrete and asphalt have worn out due to the heavy volume of traffic and heavy loads by large trucks.
The Alabama Department of Transportation's $38.6 million project will rebuild 9.8 miles of the interstate in both directions. The expected completion date for the entire project is early Winter 2013. Motorists are requested to consider adjusting arrival/departure times, observe work zone speed limits and other work zone signs, and use extreme caution in this area.
ALDOT thanks motorists for their patience during this construction to improve Alabama's roadways.
ALDOT's mission is to provide a safe, efficient, environmentally and economically sound transportation network across Alabama. For further information, visit www.dot.state.al.us.
-Source: Linda Crockett, Alabama Department of Transportation
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