“We’re directly under a light pole and there’s no light,” said Birmingham native Johnny Cowart, as he looked up towards the dark bulb.
Cowart chuckles at the irony, but there’s nothing funny about this situation.
“My concern is people walk up and down this sidewalk,” Cowart explained. “You can’t see them. It’s a danger.”
Cowart called CBS 42 during last week’s Your Voice Your Station Phone Bank. He told us he’s worried about interstate lighting. He fears for the pedestrians he passes on the 1st Avenue North exit ramp but says the dark can be just as dangerous for drivers.
“If you’re not familiar with this area, slow down,” he said. “If not, you’re in trouble.”
We did some driving and found more problem spots at the I-20 Oporto Madrid and 1st Avenue entrance ramps.
Cowart says, when you factor in weather, it only gets worse.
“On a cloudy, cold night you don’t get this,” he said. “It’s really dark.”
“It’s a concern,” Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt said. “Nobody said anything specifically to me, but I know because I’ve observed.”
Hoyt is the Chair of the Birmingham City Council’s Transportation Committee. CBS 42 approached city leaders for answers after learning from ALDOT that municipalities are responsible for maintaining their interstate lighting. In addition to the on- and off-ramps, representatives with the Alabama Department of Transportation say it’s also their duty to maintain the lights that run along the interstates.
Familiar with the 1st Avenue exit, Councilor Hoyt cannot ignore its proximity to a Birmingham gateway.
“That’s really where the concern starts, because it’s en route to the airport,” Hoyt explained.
Hoyt says a well-lit city creates a sense of pride and offers safety and security to travelers and locals, alike.
“I just think you feel better about your family members [driving on interstate ramps when] there’s lighting, and you can visualize your surroundings,” Hoyt said.
Echoing Cowart’s concerns, Hoyt was unaware when or if the issue had been addressed. CBS 42 asked him what he believes is necessary to remedy these dim roads.
“I just think there needs to be an assessment,” Hoyt said. “We’re not a third world country. We have the ability to light up the city. And I think the lighter, the safer.”
During last week’s Your Voice Your Station phone bank, CBS 42 received a number of calls regarding interstate lighting. Other areas of concern include Bessemer, Fairfield and Roebuck. As of the publishing of this story, ALDOT has not responded to requests for more information. Stay with CBS 42 for updates on this developing story.