BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Crystal Smitherman was 16 and had just started driving when she nearly got stuck in flooding beneath the 6th Avenue South viaduct. Years later as a Birmingham city councilor, she wants to make sure no one else has such a scary experience.
“It’s very dangerous to drive through flooding like that,” Smitherman said.
Today, crews will begin the 6th Ave. South Drainage Project, an effort designed to alleviate flooding in the area. Smitherman started pushing for it as soon as she took office in January 2019.
“I’m just really happy to see this,” said Smitherman, who represents Birmingham City Council District 6, said. “I think it’s good for the safety and welfare of the constituents.”
The portion of 6th Avenue South beneath the viaduct tends to flood whenever there’s heavy rain, which could happen this week as two storms pass through the Gulf of Mexico. When it happens, it’s a problem for thousands of people. The road, which Smitherman calls the gateway to the western part of District 6, runs by UAB, Memorial Park and a Birmingham Police station. It connects downtown to neighborhoods like West End, Mason City, Oakwood Place, Five Points West and Titusville, where Smitherman’s family has lived for five generations.
“For people like myself who grew up in District 6, you literally have to go all the way around on Green Springs to go home,” she said. “So it’s really very inconvenient when it starts flooding.”
The solution to the problem will require its own inconveniences, including lane closures and traffic shifts. In addition to 6th Avenue S, the work will affect 7th Avenue South and 8th Street South. But Smitherman believes those minor headaches will ultimately prevent much bigger ones.
“It’ll be an inconvenience for people, but just think about how much it rains here, especially during the summer months,” she said, adding that the inconvenience of flooding is far greater than what the construction will create.
The construction will cost $2.5 million and last about six months.
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