Planning organization proposes transportation projects

Published 4:19 pm Friday, June 11, 2010

The Birmingham Metropolitan Planning Organization recently approved a plan detailing road improvement projects in Shelby County scheduled for the next 25 years.

During a June 9 meeting, the organization passed its 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, outlining a fiscally constrained list, which is made up of projects expected to be funded between 2010 and 2035.

The plan also includes a “visionary plan,” which lists “important transportation projects that cannot be accomplished within the anticipated cost constraints of the Birmingham MPO,” according to MPO documents.

The MPO meets regularly to plan transportation projects throughout the Birmingham metro area, and is composed of representatives from the Alabama departments of environmental management and transportation, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham and the Jefferson County Department of Health.

The organization is also responsible for allocating state, federal and local transportation funds to various projects in Jefferson and Shelby counties.

In the plan, the organization identified more than $593 million in road and bridge projects expected to be funded in Shelby County over the next 25 years, and more than $1.1 billion in Shelby County projects on the visionary plan.

“All the projects listed on the fiscally constrained plan are projects that we believe will at least be partially funded by the dollars we will have available over the next 25 years,” said Greg Wingo, a spokesman with the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission.

“The visionary list is made up of projects that we recommend should occur over that time, but fall outside of our regular revenue forecast,” Wingo added.

Shelby County projects included on the fiscally constrained list include improvements on Interstate 65, Valleydale Road, Morgan Road and several other routes throughout the county. The list also includes the construction of a northern truck bypass in Calera.

The visionary plan lists interchange modifications at the intersection of Valleydale Road and Interstate 65, several improvements along U.S. 280 and other projects in all parts of the county.

Because progress on each project on the lists varies from the planning stages to near completion, Wingo said he was unable to predict when the projects will be completed.

Instead of applying a universal methodology while selecting the projects for the two lists, the Metro Planning Organization studied each road project individually and determined how important the project would be to the people who use it.

“Really, it’s not so much a Wizard of Oz-behind-the-curtains decision or anything,” WIngo said of the project selection process. “It’s more about looking at the impact each project would have on its surrounding location.”

Because some projects on the list, like the Corridor X project in Jefferson County, have been on the Metro Planning Organization’s project lists for decades, the Regional Transportation Plan should be viewed as a “rolling plan,” Wingo said.

“This is really a rolling process. Five years from now, we will re-evaluate these projects and see where we are,” Wingo said. “This is our plan for the next 25 years as it stands today.”