Northern Beltline

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The Northern Beltline


The Northern Beltline is a proposed 52-mile, highway arcing through northern and western Jefferson County around Birmingham, with an intended purpose of opening up areas for development. Critics have labeled the project a “boondoggle,” a “zombie highway” and a “road to nowhere.” The proposed route is the longest, costliest  and most environmentally destructive (considering negative impacts to at least 90 streams and 35 wetlands in the Black Warrior and Cahaba river basins, including 2 major sources of drinking water) of the 7 routes originally considered. The entire beltline was originally estimated to cost $3.4 billion, but the price estimate rose in 2011 to $4.7 billion. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) now estimates the project will cost $5.44 billion, averaging over $100 million per mile of road, making it the most expensive road project in Alabama’s history and one of the most expensive in the history of the U.S. At such a massive price tag, the problem is this road is not guaranteed to produce economic growth, and it does not serve an equitable transportation function. The Beltline fails to connect with I-459 near Trussville, it fails to help alleviate growing traffic problems in the greater Birmingham area (only 1-3% of downtown’s congestion will be affected and traffic will increase on I-59 near Trussville), and it fails to curtail truck traffic passing through Birmingham on Corridor X (I-22), I-20/59, and I-65. In its 2010 Transportation Improvement Plan, the greater Birmingham region prioritized the Northern Beltline 36th out of 54 transportation projects, yet the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Birmingham Business Alliance continue to prioritize the Beltline. The massive diversion of funding to the Beltline effectively de-prioritizes other much more necessary roadway maintenance, safety, and traffic fixes around the region. According to experts, the Northern Beltline will do little to help the region meet any kind of economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability, or social equity goals. Instead, only a select group of large landowners will benefit. The prioritization of the Northern Beltline by the Birmingham Business Alliance and others in Alabama is a mistake that should be undone.

Northern Beltline Facts updated 5.10.2023:

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