Jefferson County Commission President shares update on Birmingham’s northern beltline

Local News

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — As construction sites near Birmingham’s future northern beltline remain idle, CBS 42 is learning more about plans for the long term project.

The bypass would eventually connect I-59 near Argo to I-20/59 in west Jefferson County.

In 2019, Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens announced federal money was being put aside to complete the work on Alabama’s unfinished portion of the federal Appalachian Development Highway System.

“Right now that is $30 million per year, so we have $60 million in the bank right now in order to effectuate either buying right away or moving dirt,” said Stephens.

Dirt has not moved in quite some time. Folks living near the site say they are ready for the road to be finished.

“They need to quit talking and put their money where their mouth is. It is time to do something. I have lived here 47 years. They were talking about it when I moved here,” said Judy Jones, who lives about a mile from the roadway.

A small portion of work has been completed near Alabama Highway 79 and Alabama Highway 75.

“Asphalt the road, put traffic on it, prove that it will be utilized, because there is a lot of traffic on this highway,” said Jones.

Supporters of the highway believe the road will add jobs and growth to the northern part of Jefferson County. Truck traffic will also be able to bypass the city of Birmingham and allow a safer commute for drivers.

“There is a lot of land out here that could be used for industrial development, all utilities are out here but no one is interested because we are so far from the interstate,” said Jones.

Other neighbors wonder if they will ever see the highway completed.

“I really don’t think I am going to be young enough to care at that time, but when it does get through, I hope to sell out. I don’t want to live here with the highway being right here,” said Ray Sport, who lives near the ramp from Highway 79.

Sport told CBS 42 he was originally a surveyor for the project decades ago near Tarrant. Leaders later determined the road should be further north.

“One day I opened up the newspaper and it was a little red spot with a map saying this is where they was going to start the new northern bypass and I thought then, well here is where I am going to get rich and sell to Cracker Barrell, but that had not happened,” said Sport.

County leaders said the entire price tag will be around $3.5 billion dollars and heavy work won’t likely begin until more money is available. Local, state, and federal leaders continue to work together on the project.

Stephens said officials will lobby for even more annual money to jump start the project. He believes more surveying and right-of-way aquisition could resume later this year.

“I would think you would begin to see some movement within this next 12 months,” said Stephens.
Some neighbors were in the path of the highway and have since moved. Stephens believes President Joe Biden will continue to prioritize the development.

“I believe the Biden administration who is heavy on infrastructure, I believe this represents 14 states and they’re blue and red,” said Stephens.

According to Stephens, the Alabama Department of Transportation will decide next steps.

“Director Cooper has put this on the front burner, which we appreciate. And we will work with him and he will determine the location, with our input, where we get started,” said Stephens.

Stay with CBS 42 for updates.

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