Riley speaks in support of toll lanes on U.S. 280

Published 5:03 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In a luncheon Wednesday with the Birmingham Business Alliance, Gov. Bob Riley said he supports the idea of toll lanes on U.S. 280 to help alleviate traffic problems.

After the luncheon, Todd Stacy, a spokesperson with the governor’s office, said Riley believes the toll lanes would be the quickest way to improve traffic.

“It’s clearly a problem for the area. It’s an immediate need, a critical need right now,” Stacy said.

He said toll roads could be completed in as little as three years, a far shorter amount of time than it would take to finish most large-scale traffic projects.

“Like the governor said today, typically, it would take three years just to get the environmental permits,” Stacy said. “To have a project like this is really unique. It’s not breaking new ground. It’s simply adding another floor to the highway.”

Riley believes the toll roads should stretch from the Elton B. Stephens Expressway in Jefferson County to Eagle Point Parkway in Shelby County, Stacy said.

“To make it work, to make it be a viable expressway to alleviate all problems with the traffic, it would need to stand the whole way from Eagle Point Parkway to the Elton B. Stephens Expressway,” Stacy said. “That’s from the engineers that have worked on this project.

Stacy also said the toll roads would only be elevated from Interstate 459 to Eagle Point Parkway. From the Elton B. Stephens Expressway to Interstate 459, the toll roads would largely be at ground level.

However, those using the toll lanes would have an advantage because the toll roads would either be elevated or go underground at intersections on U.S. 280, which would keep traffic on the toll roads flowing continuously, Stacy said.

Dave Rickey, senior vice president of communications for the Birmingham Business Alliance, said the organization plans to review the plan for U.S. 280 toll lanes.

“We will discuss Riley’s proposal with the investors of the Birmingham Business Alliance,” Rickey said. “We’re glad that the governor agrees that an efficient transportation system is vital for economic development.”