North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

January 23, 2014

Federal judge denies injunction, Northern Beltline construction can proceed

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

BIRMINGHAM — Construction on the first segment of the Northern Beltline highway cleared another hurdle last week, as a federal judge refused to grant an injunction to stop the road.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins issued his ruling Friday, in which he said that such an injunction would be an extraordinary measure, and that opponents had not showed that the Alabama Department of Trans­portation had failed to follow proper procedures in assessing environmental impact.

Watkins added the state would suffer “significant impacts” on the treasury if the project were delayed and the bid process held again.

The injunctions were sought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeepers, which opposes the entire Beltline project. Lawsuits filed by the group continue through the federal court system despite Watkins’ ruling.

ALDOT has already accepted a bid for construction of the first segment, which will run 1.8 miles between Highway 75 near Palmerdale and Highway 79 between Pinson and Locust Fork. The contract is awaiting approval by Gov. Robert Bentley. Construction could begin as early as next month.

When completed, the highway will go through northern Jefferson County, from an interchange with Interstate 59 near Argo on the north end to another with I-20/29 and I-459 at McCalla on the south end. It would also intersect with I-22 near Brookside.