By Teresa Vise
North Jefferson News
Pro-business conversations keep bubbling to the surface and what a refreshing trend in communication. For example, Birming-ham City Council leaders and Jefferson County dele-gates met this week as reported in the Birmingham News (2/23/11 J. Bryant) to “break bread” and discuss input on legislation and grants seeking transit support. Our representative Juandalynn Givan was in attendance. The legislative session starts in just a week, and the presentation by Mayor Bell which focused primarily on the federal agenda for transit, is timely for our area as well. With our Northern Beltline continuing to make headlines, noting the details of these discussions is important.
According to the Department of Transportation, our Northern Beltline will cost $90 million dollars per mile for the 25-year life of the project for a cost of 4.7 Billion dollars. Rising project costs have driven advocates to push for completion, and as you drive Interstate 65, clear progress on Interstate 22 can be seen. According to Senator Richard Shelby, “Escalating costs are just one more reason why we need to get this project under way.” (Birmingham News, 2/23/11 T. Spencer). Representative Spencer Bachus agreed: “The completion of the Northern Beltline is a high priority for the Birmingham region and retains my total support.” Despite rising costs, this project has a dedicated source of federal funding that has been reported as “uncapped.” This was accomplished by the effort of Senator Shelby to designate the beltline as a part of the Appalachian Development Highway System which tapped a funding source of road money that is separate from the state’s general allocation of federal highway dollars.
Alabama receives $117 million per year from ADHS, and that money is funding the connector of Corridor X from Highway 31 to Interstate 65 that you see from Fultondale and our Walkers Chapel area. When this project completes, this money plus 20 percent from Alabama as a match will shift over to beltline work. One thing is for sure, the costs will continue to rise. According to Don Vaughn, ALDOT’s chief engineer as reported by the Birmingham News (2/23/11), in 1977 a $100 million dollars was needed to complete 100 miles of road. Now a short 34 years later, we need just about the same amount of money to complete only 25 miles of road.
Opponents of the project maintain that the road is just not needed and will damage the environment. Pulling from the SOURCE website, Save Our Unique River, they petition that “the factors affecting the severity of the impact of this project on the water quality of streams in this project corridor include erosion, accidental spills, de-icing materials and bridge maintenance” to name a few. They do also note importantly that the Cahaba River is of vital importance to Alabama citizens as it provides 60% of the water for the Birmingham Water Works Board, and this Board serves one-fourth of Alabama citizens. Efforts to maintain the Cahaba’s integrity is vital for all Alabamians, and we would be well served to remember that as we manage our growth.
No wonder everyone is looking at the north Jefferson area. And we just thought it was the great shopping and restaurants!
Plans call for the freeway to branch off Interstate 59 near the Jefferson-St. Clair County border, arc across north Jefferson County, crossing Interstate 65 north of Gardendale, dropping southwest, crossing Corridor X, and eventually connecting to Interstate 20/59 at the western end of Interstate 459.
In the effort to learn more about growth and opportunities for partnership, I attended a lunch meeting for chamber directors this week at the Birmingham Business Alliance. The topic of the Beltline was discussed in the context of Blue Print Birmingham. According to Barry Copeland, Interim President of the Birmingham Business Alliance, “The beltline is important to the development of the north Jefferson area.” The Beltline is a clear transit opportunity which is one of the seven areas of economic development growth identified by Blue Print Birmingham. Of the seven which are manufacturing, healthcare, finance, trade and distribution, biomedical technology, diverse manufacturing or green manufacturing, and finally arts, entertainment and tourism, we find our niche here in the North Jefferson area under trade and distribution.
At the core of this opportunity is the challenge of developing the public and private leadership that we always need to see us through years of change such as these. As the brain trust behind Blue Print Birmingham continues to reach out to Jefferson County for input and participation, I encourage you to plug in and get involved.
Mr. Copeland will be joining us in March for a north Jefferson conversation on Blue Print Birmingham and what it means to the north Jefferson area. I invite you and other business leaders to join us, stay informed, and stay engaged. Details of this event will follow.
You will find Blue Print Birmingham at http://www.birminghambusinessalliance.com/
Remember to take care of your customers, or someone else will.
You can find additional readings on Teresa’s blog at http://businessadvise4u.blogspot.com. Teresa works for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals and supports the Fultondale Chamber of Commerce. The Fultondale Chamber will meet March 22 and the host will be Barry Copeland of the Birmingham Business Alliance. Location pending. You can join the meeting by calling 337-1629.