Some of Birmingham’s best shortcuts are worst roads to live on, neighbors say

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Don’t cut through. Cut it out. That’s the message people living off some of Birmingham’s best shortcuts have for the drivers flooding their streets every day.

Birmingham residents from various parts of the city have voiced concerns to CBS 42 over potholes and torn-up asphalt lining their neighborhoods. While city crews are currently in the third year of a 5-year road resurfacing plan, some residents say help could not come soon enough.

“It’s been terrible,” Nancy Lopez said. “When I go to work it is always a daily routine. I’ll go the opposite way.”

For 11 years Lopez has lived in her home on 1st Street South and 24th Avenue South. Conditions have vastly deteriorated due to unwanted traffic, she said. She and her neighbors said their street has experienced wear and tear beyond the norm because it’s used as a shortcut to various destinations in the city. The many drivers flooding the street will attempt to avoid potholes, creating concern for safety.

“…You’ll see the cars swerve around and try to go around the other way just to go to where they need to go to,” Lopez described.

People living farther north along Center Way South also see the impacts of the added traffic on the road.

“I count so many cars…it’s a shortcut for many people coming from work,” Calvin Rowland, who lives just north of the cut-through road on Center Way South, said.

The area has been patched before, but Rowland said cracked pavement and potholes can still make traveling difficult.

“It costs money to get your front end lined up…can bust a tire,” Rowland said.

Rowland and Lopez’s street is one of many across Birmingham that neighbors say is in need of repair.

“It would make the neighborhood look better, and people would be more interested in buying a house instead of renting,” Rowland said.

Help is coming

The City of Birmingham promises help is coming to neighborhoods in all nine council districts. But the process is going to take some time. Mayor Randall Woodfin has been vocal about the need to fix and repair infrastructure in all of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods.

In an email to CBS 42, a spokesperson for the city said that Lopez’s and Rowland’s streets are not set to be paved this year but will be soon after.

According to the city, the following roads are included in the 5-year plan, but are not on the 2021 resurfacing schedule:

  • 1st Street South from Center Way to 24th Avenue South
  • 23rd Avenue South from West End to Center Way
  • Center Way from Center Place to 23rd Terrace South   

However, other heavily traveled roads nearby will be resurfaced in 2021, the city said. These roads in District 6 include:

  • 1st Street from 1st Avenue South to 6th Avenue South
  • Center Way from Hollins Drive to 6th Avenue South
  • Pearson Avenue Southwest from 15th Place Southwest to Cotton Avenue Southwest
  • Spaulding Ishkooda from 13th Place to Crown Gas Station (damaged lanes only)

As for the potholes, public works crews will continue providing emergency patches across the city.
Workers with Birmingham’s Department of Public Works covered 125 potholes and serviced 19 streets two weeks ago using four tons of asphalt, according to a city spokesperson. The department would investigate the areas along 1st Street South and Center Way south to determine additional needs, she added.

District 6 Councilor Crystal Smitherman responds

After hearing complaints from Birmingham residents who live along the 2400 block of 1st Street South, CBS 42 shared their concerns with Birmingham City Councilor Crystal Smitherman, who represents the sixth district. In January, alongside the mayor, she held a town hall meeting, which included a discussion on upcoming road projects.

“I am a fifth generation Titusville resident. I actually grew up on Center Way Southwest, so that is one street over. We have driven on those roads for several years,” Smitherman revealed. “My sister just moved out a couple of years ago and we still go by and check on that house, so we drive on the roads. We understand the conditions, but it is also a process.”

Smitherman said district representatives ride roads twice each week to look for troubled areas, and city workers follow up on 311 complaints. She said would look into ways to improve conditions for locals like Rowland and Lopez, who are desperate for a swift resolution.

“I can make it a priority and put in a request in the mayor’s office to just maybe move the process along for that street, because usually they take the streets and they evaluate, and then they make the final list for the street repaving,” Smitherman explained.

A city code allows the city to hold utility companies responsible for any damage that may be caused while doing work in the area. The councilor said she would look to see if that was the case in any complaints. She also said she hoped to address concerns about cut-through traffic.

“I am going to talk to James Fowler, department head, for having a no thru traffic sign, which usually [dissuades] people from coming through,” Smitherman said. “So that is a good thing we can have, that is a quick solution we can have for traffic right now.”

The councilor recommends concerned locals report issues by calling 311. This process ensures the complaints will be logged, tracked for progress, and followed up on. Smitherman advises locals to take advantage of neighborhood associations, who can more promptly bring concerns to the attention of city council members’ attention.

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