The Alabama Department of Transportation’s controversial plan to replace the Interstate 59 bridge downtown, closing exits and rerouting traffic, will meet its critics publicly again on Thursday.
ALDOT has scheduled “an informal meeting” May 9 from 4-7 p.m. at St. James Missionary Baptist Church, located at 1300 24th Street North, with “North Birmingham stakeholders” to talk about the plan which has Norwood residents in particular crying foul.
People who live in the neighborhood just north of the I-59 bridge say they fear the plan will negatively impact their community by rerouting more traffic to 11th Avenue North, shutting off several exits, blocking passage from Norwood to points south by closing off some streets under the freeway, isolating (or further isolating) their area from efforts at economic revitalization downtown in the process.
Critics have suggested that ALDOT is less concerned about the access of Birmingham residents than it is in moving traffic more swiftly through the city. They contend that the freeway plan as envisioned, starting in 2014, would — intentionally or unintentionally — continue down a path paved by engineers decades ago, who planned the interstate path through poor, black neighborhoods, and used its infrastructure to support the aims of segregationists.
ALDOT counters that the plan as envisioned is designed only to replace an aging bridge deck with a safer, more attractive freeway — higher, wider and structured to correct past poor design, which has led to a high rate of traffic accidents on I-59 downtown. But, ALDOT officials have said, they are willing to reevaluate their plan in the light of community concerns.
In the announcement of the meeting ALDOT refers questions about the upcoming meeting to Sandra F.P. Bonner at the ALDOT Third Division Office, (205) 581-5725.