Birmingham, Alabama: Northern Beltline

Is the Northern Beltline what's best for Birmingham? We all want to see Birmingham thrive, let's make smart investments that strengthen our economy, without hurting our environment.


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Long Range Plan for Birmingham Region Would Allocate More than Half of Available Funding for Transportation Improvements to Northern Beltline More »

The wrong investment for Birmingham’s future

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has just begun construction on the first two miles of its proposed 52-mile bypass north of Birmingham called the Northern Beltline. With a $5.4-billion price tag, it is the most expensive road project in Alabama history and will have significant impacts on the natural resources around Birmingham, particularly the sensitive headwaters of the Black Warrior and Cahaba rivers.

SELC and our Alabama partners want to see Birmingham thrive economically with a transportation system that supports a world-class city with a high quality of life. The Northern Beltline is the wrong answer, as the project is bad for our environment and our economy.

One of the Most Expensive Highways in the Nation

The Northern Beltline isn’t just the most expensive road in Alabama history – with a staggering price tag of $104 million per mile – but it is also one of the most expensive projects in the country. This price doesn’t include the additional costs of sewer infrastructure and other investments that will accompany the project. According to the latest local transportation plan, the Northern Beltline will take 75 years to complete while draining more than half of the available funds for metro Birmingham during its construction.  

Proponents of the Northern Beltline claim that the highway would create jobs and growth for the region. But their job numbers have been highly inflated, are extremely costly for taxpayers, and most will not materialize until if and when the project is completed – 75 years or more from now. 

Meanwhile, other job-creating investments will be left on the shelf.

Fixing the congestion on Birmingham’s existing highways and making more cost-effective transportation investments will also create jobs – both construction jobs and permanent jobs that will be produced by attracting development to a city that has smoothly flowing traffic arteries and diverse transportation options.

Beltline vs. Birmingham’s Other Transportation Needs

The Northern Beltline will draw dwindling federal funding away from dozens of other transportation priorities in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. The cost of the Beltline alone is more than a billion dollars more than it would cost to widen and improve the area's existing interstates, fix Malfunction Junction (the intersection between I-65 and I-20/59 with one of the highest accident rates in the state), and implement ongoing maintenance and improvements for at least 50 other major highways and connections around the area.

So why is ALDOT investing over $5 billion in a project that would reduce local interstate traffic only one to three percent, and then only when (if) the project is completed?

Fighting for a Better Choice

The Northern Beltline would provide Birmingham with very few benefits, but it would carry huge costs to the city’s coffers as well as the costs to the area’s waterways, air quality, wetlands, and forests. It is a 1960s-era idea for economic growth in a 21st-century world.

As this project has continued to be pushed forward, SELC is in court on behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeeper calling for an updated environmental impact study. We also challenged a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Northern Beltline’s first phase of construction. Both of these cases remain active and have not yet been decided.

Read Frequently Asked Questions about the Northern Beltline

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