ALDOT should start U.S. 280 toll road project now

A report released last week projecting 10,000 new jobs will come to Shelby County within the next 10 years is good news.

The report, released by Woods & Poole Economics Inc., ranks Shelby County as eighth nationwide for employment growth through 2015.

Should that projection come to pass, it would simply be the continuation of a trend that began some 20 years ago, during which time Shelby County’s population has nearly doubled.

Growth is good, but brings with it many challenges, chief among them how the influx of people in the county will move about.

At present, transportation within Shelby County can be difficult. Anyone who travels the U.S. 280 corridor can attest to the tremendous need right now to improve that roadway.

A plan was in place last year to do just that, add lanes and free up space on existing lanes of that roadway via the construction of an elevated toll road on U.S. 280.

ALDOT backed the plan and said funding for it was in place. Shelby County’s communities expressed their support for the toll road, including the city of Hoover, as did Shelby County and Birmingham business groups, like the South Shelby County Chamber of Commence and the Birmingham Business Alliance.

However, after a small group of residents and business owners expressed displeasure with the elevated portion of the roadway, ALDOT’s work on the project seemed to come to a complete halt.

Understandably frustrated, Tony Harris, ALDOT spokesman, said the project would not move forward until a clear consensus of those involved supported it, and that support was quickly demonstrated.

Still, ALDOT seems to have taken its marbles and simply headed home.

That’s unacceptable for Shelby County, particularly in light of the projections that growth here is nowhere near its end.

The elevated toll road plan isn’t perfect. None is. However, it’s the best solution available right now. The situation on U.S. 280 is a danger every day to all who are forced to travel that congested roadway.

ALDOT holds the key to providing Shelby County residents a safer way to travel on U.S. 280. ALDOT should do its job and make it happen now.

Jan Griffey is the editor for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 36 or by email at jan.griffey@shelbycountyreporter.com.