Commuters travel along U.S. 280 on Jan. 24. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Archived Story

U.S. 280 progress at a standstill

Published 4:13pm Monday, January 30, 2012

By JAN GRIFFEY / Editor

In the spring of 2010, those who regularly travel congested U.S. 280 through Shelby County were hopeful a plan for improving the dangerous traffic corridor was taking root.

It was not to be.

About a year earlier, the Alabama Department of Transportation proposed building an elevated toll road expressway as a solution to U.S. 280’s traffic problems.

The toll road plan was embraced by municipalities in Shelby County located along U.S. 280, as well as by leaders of the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce and the Birmingham Business Alliance.

However, a small group of business owners and residents, mainly from the Homewood and Mountain Brook areas, objected to the expressway, concerned that it would create an eyesore.

Fast-forward two years, and U.S. 280 is unchanged. Gridlock rules and the elevated toll road plan apparently has been abandoned.

Tony Harris, communications bureau chief for ALDOT, said the roads problems continue to be studied by ALDOT officials.

“Until we can better assess the options that are out there and the level of relief we can achieve through the different options available, we’re not at a point to make a decision on how to proceed,” Harris said.

“The way we’ve put it is we are convinced something needs to be done at some point (to improve the traffic burden on U.S. 280). If we can’t find a way to do it, we will leave it at the local government levels.”

He said ALDOT Director John Cooper and Gov. Robert Bentley are “very involved” in those deliberations. “It’s being studied,” he said.

When asked if he could give a timeline for a decision on some type of plan for improving U.S. 280, Harris said, “(ALDOT has put) solutions on the table for 20 years,” but local support for those plans has not been what was needed to move them forward.

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  • BamaGran

    What a shame that real and sustainable alternatives are not constantly being offered to reduce 280 congestion. We cannot pave our way out of the problem. Express bus service would provide immediate relief, as would synchronizing the traffic lights.
    In addition the many cul-de-sacs could be opened to a grid of side streets that would reduce the need for people to come onto the highway for local errands and business.
    Those who complain about medical care should push for an emergency facility closer by, or move to within comfortable distance of such a facility.
    Please learn from the smarter decisions being made elsewhere–Charlotte and Chattanooga, for example. It’s time we opened our minds to 21st Century needs.

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  • mariah

    Your article is not completely accurate. I attended the SHelby County Commision meeting and have an audio recording of it. Their was a large Shelby County Subdivision community group that came forward that is adjacent to 280 that was not for the 280 elevation. “We were slow to get together but we feel the same way as Homewood and Mtn. Brook and oppose this solution of a elevated tollroad.” Also, those in Chelsea could build service roads and not have red lights that are adjacent to the 280 intersections. I drove on Hway 31 in Vestavia last week at 5:30. All the lights were sychronized and the traffic just flew by. You can’t have it all. A retail tax base that intersects into a highway and fast traffic. All of you in Shelby County can do better by how you grant traffic lights. I leave it to you to fix your own problems and not cast stones at those of us who do not want the elevated 280. Most people are surprised how green and beautiful Birmingham and the suburbs are. With the elevated 280 solution, this attribute of Birmingham goes away. Move closer if you want to get into town faster. We would love for you to by our inventory of homes. There are plenty to choose from.

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  • firesale

    What a sad thing to see a small group of people holding up the safety and convenience of the many. We live East of Hwy 119. In the past 5 years we’ve learned to take the by-passes to avoid the Inverness businesses. We do not eat, shop, or use the dry cleaners in that area any more.
    US 280 is a US highway. What if we started a petition to have the Fed take out all the poorly planned traffic lights so Vestavia, Mountain Brook and Homewood commuters have to close their eyes to pull out onto the road?
    I remind citizens of those cities, what a wonderful idea they thought it was to raze one of the most Historic and beautiful neighborhoods in the city of Birmingham, make a cut through the mountain and install an expressway for their saftey and convenience. Not to mention the citizens of Birmingham funding their sewer expansion for development in their cities, via a temporary fee that never went away.
    We will continue to avoid the businesses along the corridor, not for spite, because we really do like them, but for safety and convenience.
    The foot dragging on this project is but one more nail in the coffin of the City of Birmingham, and as businesses come into the Chelsea, Westover and Harpersville areas, the Birmingham blight will begin to spread.

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    • robrobjr

      I have lived in Boston, NY and Rhode Island, all of which have these proposed expressway-overpasses. These should be used as a last resort, and are not an elegant or appropriate solution. Historically they deteriorate the perceived value of the area, causing more problems than they serve to solve. Boston has spent more money and manpower than ever in US history, trying to undo the overpass blight (Google “Big Dig”). It would be far better to widen the existing 280, have express lanes, and eliminate some traffic lights. The overpass is a banal knee-jerk reaction to the larger problem of urban sprawl, and lack of urban planning foresight. And if Fun-gomery gets involved, like their quarter century road improvement project from Bham to Auburn, I don’t look forward to the 10 years of hard construction and traffic nightmares while the overpass is being built. I travel 280 almost daily, and hate it, too, but lets get real here. Birmingham’s number one problem, like Atlanta, is sprawl. There are copious amounts of literature on the subject, and, if allowed, I would recommend these case studies as mandatory reading to our local and state officials. Harvard’s Graduate School of Design probably has a nice library of these, and maybe one of their graduates could shed some light on it with first hand experience. Consider “creating communities”, and less “bandaid”. God help us!

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