I-59/20 Southbound remains closed today after safety concerns associated with the bridge construction forced the Alabama Department of Transportation to shut down the heavily traveled road in the middle of the City of Birmingham. Motorists are advised to stay out of the area if at all possible.
On Tuesday, ALDOT announced: “I-59 southbound at I-65 will remain CLOSED through at least Wednesday, April 11th along with the 18th street on ramp.”
“We are very disappointed in the performance of our contractor on this job and we are currently fining them $500,000 PER DAY during this closure,” ALDOT announced. “While we are disappointed, we must focus on safety and we must require the continued closure of the roadway until we can be confident that drivers are not in danger. PLEASE avoid the I59/I65 interchange if possible. Use alternate routes for your commute.”
If you must travel in this area, ALDOT says that you should expect significant delays in all directions.
“If you must travel I59 southbound from the Red Mountain Expressway, you will be required to exit on to I-65 N then again exit at 16th street where you will cross over to 65 S and drive back south to the 59 exit and merge back on to 59 S towards Tuscaloosa. Please follow local news and traffic alerts for additional details, alerts and recommended detours. Follow our page for additional alerts.”
Many city planners, in retrospect, view the 1960s era decision to route I-65, I-59, I-20 and I-22 into the center of the biggest city in the state as a long-term mistake. I-459 connects: Trussville, Irondale, the Summit area of Birmingham, Hoover and Bessemer around the central city; but the long-delayed northern loop is still 20 years away. Some in the Birmingham community had wanted to put the interstate underground or re-route it a few miles to the north; but ALDOT rejected both of those solutions and are instead re-engineering the I-59/I-65 junction as part of a grand plan to replace the elevated I-20/I-59 through the center of the city.
“I want to apologize on behalf of the Department of Transportation for the inconvenience that the traveling public is experiencing at this time,” ALDOT Director John Cooper said. “We are concerned about the delay to the public. We have been working as diligently and as hard as we could to get the situation in hand so that we can get the road re-opened.”
ALDOT was forced to close the major interstate after a steel girder suddenly shifted, after a temporary support failed, leading to fears that it would collapse on top of the interstate traffic flowing underneath.
ALDOT expressed hope that they will be able to reopen I-59 as early as Wednesday night, allowing motorists to resume their normal commute on Thursday morning. Construction, however, will continue to be delayed for years going forward, so motorists are advised to slow down.
Granite Construction Company is the contractor.
ALDOT engineers do not know why the temporary support failed, but insist that the bridge structure itself is undamaged and is safe.