ALDOT must look at the big picture

Published 10:03am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Alabama Department of Transportation recently introduced changes to be made to the intersection of U.S. 280 and Alabama 119, which the department is hoping will help reduce traffic congestion at those two busy roadways.

That project, in conjunction with ALDOT’s plans to make changes to U.S. 280 affecting 26 intersections between Hollywood Boulevard and Hugh Daniel Drive, should help improve U.S. 280 as it stands now — pun intended, as U.S. 280 traffic often finds itself at a standstill.

According to Preconstruction Engineer Lance Taylor, ALDOT hopes to let bids for the U.S. 280 intersection changes in April of this year. The department hopes to let bids on the U.S. 280 and Alabama 119 project in fall 2013, so both projects should be in motion before this year ends.

While we appreciate that these improvements are being made and believe they will make an appreciable difference in current U.S. 280 traffic congestion, we have to wonder what’s being done to make U.S. 280 work for the long run, not just in the short term.

The changes planned now seem like stopgap measures, and ALDOT needs to address the bigger picture. Shelby County continues to grow quickly, as does the U.S. 280 corridor, and U.S. 280 in its current incarnation simply cannot handle that growth. A plan must be put in place soon to convert U.S. 280 into a roadway that can not only handle current traffic, but traffic congestion that is still years — perhaps decades — away.

Three years ago, ALDOT proposed building an elevated toll road expressway, a plan embraced by municipalities along U.S. 280. However, after complaints from a group of business owners and residents, ALDOT abandoned the plan and, thus far, hasn’t come up with another plan.

We understand that ALDOT needs support for its plans, especially large-scale undertakings such as the prospective U.S. 280 toll road. However, unilateral support is hard to find for any plan that involves changing infrastructure. We would urge ALDOT to resurrect the toll road plan or come up with another plan, as U.S. 280 is a problem that will not simply disappear.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.

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