JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) – We’re looking into an issue that is dividing a community in half.
On the edge of Jefferson County near the Tuscaloosa County line in a community called Bull City, Jefferson County leaders closed Betty Hill Road last summer deeming it unsafe for travel.
Now, residents said it’s costly and tough to run errands as it requires taking miles-long detours.
Betty Hill Grocery owner Charles Smith emailed CBS 42 with his concern. He said their business has been cut in half since the road was closed in June of 2022.
“It’s just me and the wife. We work seven days a week,” Smith said. “We don’t make enough to pay no help.”
Smith said business continues to slow.
“This store is the only place for a long ways and it’s been here almost 100 years,” Smith said,
Cracks have formed up and down Betty Hill Road that run the width of it. The store sits off the road.
Jefferson County Manager Cal Markert said the cracks have continued to get worse since they closed the road.
“We know there’s some type of major void, pretty deep under the road,” Markert said. “We don’t know if it’s an old coal mine or natural erosion or a cave or something.”
Resident Wanda Underwood said the closure adds double, even triple the time on her drive to get around it.
“It’s really a hardship,” Underwood said. “I stay at home now most of the time because it’s so far out. If I go into Hueytown or Bessemer it takes me an hour to get there and back.”
The shortest route we could track was a 15-minute detour along Groundhog Road. Other routes map out to be 25 or even 35 minutes to stay off back roads.
Markert said the road is dangerous, especially because at least one crack they just measured is 12 feet deep.
“Our first priority is their safety,” Markert said. “It’s a difficult decision and we definitely understand that is an extreme inconvenience, but we just have to put life and safety first and hopefully we can find another way.”
Resident James Shipley is worried their voices are not being heard and wants more to be done.
“We’re out here and they’re in their little office. They don’t care about us,” Shipley said. “I just think there needs to be more information being put out here from the county letting us know what’s going on. That’s what is causing the big problem now.”
Smith said he doesn’t want them to lose the identity of the community as many residents have fond memories of driving along the hillside to cut across the Tuscaloosa and Jefferson County line.
“I hope Jefferson County would decide we need to get that road fixed so that community’s not split in half no more and they can get back to normal living,” Smith said.
Jefferson County engineers are working with a geotechnical specialty firm to determine the root cause of the large cracks. Markert said the results of that study are expected within the next 60 days to determine if they can fix the road or not.
Markert said county leaders plan to meet the residents to determine next steps following this study.