On the rise: Local leaders support elevated roadways while Jefferson County leaders disagree

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

County officials say an elevated roadway over U.S. Highway 280 is going to happen, despite opposition from some Jefferson County communities.

At a meet-and-greet with U.S. Senator Spencer Bachus last Wednesday at Chelsea City Hall, a who&8217;s who of county leaders expressed their desire to see the proposed highway become an actuality.

&8220;It&8217;s a reality. It&8217;s going to happen,&8221; said State Representative Mike Hill, (R-Columbiana). &8220;It&8217;s going to be expensive, but it&8217;s going to happen.&8221;

The assertions come in spite of an Oct. 23 Mountain Brook City Council resolution that that voiced objections to the plans. Homewood will have a public hearing Nov. 20 to gauge public opinion there.

However, most Shelby County leaders agree the roadway would relieve the highways&8217; notorious rush-hour congestion.

The county as well as the cities of Chelsea, Westover, and Harpersville has are in the process of adopting a resolution agreeing to work together and with the state Department of Transportation to control building permits and the interchanges along the corridor.

&8220;We needed to do something,&8221; said Shelby County Commissioner Larry Dillard, after first reviewing the plans in July. &8220;We need to get things moving.&8221;

Project Horizon 280, a group of government leaders, business owners and local residents hired Figg Engineering Group to develop the proposal.

Unveiled in August, the engineers&8217; plan calls for a 35-foot, four-lane elevated roadway that would stretch from Highway 31 in Birmingham to Eagle Point Drive in Shelby County. The roadway would have just three access points, one would connect to I-459, with an additional interchange somewhere on each of the east and west divisions.

While there are no plans to divide the proposal, Hill hinted that the eastern segment could be built without affecting the western one.

&8220;We&8217;ll present multiple ideas with multiple choices of various components of the project,&8221; said Linda Figg, president and CEO of Figg Engineering.

Currently the proposal is still in the initial phase of Figg discussing options for the roadway with the community-both in Shelby and Jefferson counties and the respective municipalities affected. With their approval and support, the company would then present the final proposal to the Horizon 280 committee.

Alabama Department of Transportation third engineer Brian Davis said while ALDOT is very interested in the project, the state&8217;s involvement will only begin once the public has approved the plan and funding solutions for the project have been hammered out.

&8220;If they can sell it to the public than they will hand it over to us,&8221; said Davis. &8220;All we are doing right now is watching and listening.&8221;

Figg said it would likely be the middle of November or later before a final concept is brought before the community.

News Editor Brandon Greshman contributed to this report