Maybe the Northern Beltline is a good idea?

Let’s keep this quiet.

Despite some very valid complaints from a variety of sources, I can’t help but feel that the Northern Beltline sounds like progress. It sounds like something we should do.

But I’m conflicted. Because I’ve had some dealings with people like the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, and I think they are good people who are generally right about things. The Shepherd Bend Mine, for instance. I also understand that there will probably be some bad things to come of it. Someone being forced to sell land, some rare, pristine woods destroyed in the process.


I’m positive all of that will happen. I’m also sure that it won’t fix traffic South of town. It will probably even funnel more traffic to I-65, which is definitely bad.

But I still think it’s a good idea. I still think that Birmingham needs to develop the Northern side of the city. Why? Because I-459 is damn great.

I am old enough to remember 280 and Hoover in their relative infancy. Certainly when 280 was a big pile of nothing. When my family would take me to Lloyd’s Restaurant and it would be surrounded by woods. Maybe that was better? Is that what I should think? I remember the realization that Hoover no longer this far off place. There was road that took us there.

And look at it now. I will give you that it’s quite easy to get reductive about suburbia and the general bland boringness of 280. But you can’t deny it brought money into the city. You can’t deny that we’re a better city because of it. There’s no way in hell I’d ever live on it, but I like that it’s there. I like that they are finally finishing that hospital.

I think the north side deserves this sort of thing. Ever tried to go to Pinson? One of the writers of this site lives there, and going there is ridculous. You either go up Center Point Parkway or Tarrant Highway. Either way is a slog. Full of nothing. In fact, I’ve been near the path of this proposed road a lot. And I am confident that there is a dire need for easy transportation in the area.

Another reason I like the idea is Corridor X. I have to travel to Jasper once a month or so to visit family- and we take the nearly completed I-22.

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Not only is the trip 30 minutes shorter, it’s damn beautiful. They cut a road through some beautiful country, and I don’t feel like they destroyed it in the process. I know they altered it. I know they cut through some hills. But I would have never, ever been able to see it if they hadn’t. And now coming to Birmingham from Memphis is almost not terrible. There’s something to be said for that. Isn’t there?

Maybe there isn’t. Maybe the 10 year old in me just thinks it’s cool to have new roads. Or maybe the practical part of me realizes that if we are going to immediately say no to everything, we never get anything. You can find people vehemently opposed to the new Barons stadium and Railroad Park. 15 years ago opponents defeated a proposal to modernize the BJCC. Birmingham loves to say no to things. Something in our nature.

Maybe you like the size and feel of our city and don’t want it to grow up. Maybe you think it’s a big waste of money. I can’t look you in the eye and tell you that you are wrong with any conviction. But I can look at 459 and say that, all things considered, was and remains a good thing.

It feels like this is also a good thing to me. What do you think?

Read more about the Northern Beltline here. Read Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s list of why it’s a terrible idea here.



5 thoughts on “Maybe the Northern Beltline is a good idea?

  1. I could have written this, in fact I have in many places but you have use all of the same reasoning that I have. I live near 459 and am astounded daily at how it opened a whole world of possibilities in getting to different areas of the metro without taking all day. It is also a beautiful road since it runs through hilly land without frontage roads.
    I also own land in the path of 422 and sold ten acres to the state. We have a lot of land so it does not impact us and the lands worth was somewhat irrelevant to us as the terrain made it unusable.

    You are so right about the fact that the northern side of the city deserves the same benefits as they pay the same gasoline taxes. I now drive up to Sumiton to a special little place for dinner. I would never have done that without 22.

    The positives vastly out weigh any negatives except to zealots. And zealots are just that way about all issues it would seem.

    I try to keep my thought processes within logic, reason, and rationale.


  2. I just can’t escape the thought that the negatives just outweigh the positives. Aside from the environmental impacts, the cost of such a massive construction on a new right-of-way are just astronomical and better spent elsewhere. (Such as a new 20/59 solution along the Finley corridor, which would actually resolve a number of the traffic issues the Beltline seeks to address.)
    I think it’s also worth considering that people chose to live in places such as Pinson partially because they aren’t a part of the 280 exurb nightmare. I didn’t grow up here, but I have similar memories from youth in Montgomery of driving out to the Green Lantern or Partridge Pines or Reds Little Schoolhouse before these places became enveloped by the city’s rapid suburbanization. The problem is, all of these restaurants have closed. I don’t know if Corridor X will help or hurt Green Top and similar places, but access brings it’s own challenges we must consider. Everyone knows the drive is part of the experience, and interstates are so boring.
    That being said it’s ridiculous it took this long to build one between here an Memphis.


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