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I-20/59 through downtown Birmingham closes for a year

Chip Brownlee

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The portion of Interstate 20/59 through downtown Birmingham has officially closed for a year of construction and repairs.

The shutdown began Monday evening and includes the bridges through Birmingham’s central business district from the Interstate 65 interchange to the interchange at Red Mountain Expressway.

The bridges through downtown are among the busiest stretches of highway in Alabama, and they’re key access points to the central business district.

The elevated portion of the interstate through downtown Birmingham will stay closed for an estimated 14 months. The Alabama Department of Transportation is overseeing a project to rebuild and expand the aging interstate that runs through the heart of Alabama’s largest city.

At a cost of $700 million, the existing bridges are going to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up using a segmental design to improve noise and aesthetics with a shorter construction time frame, ALDOT has said. Much Birmingham’s downtown business community has opposed the project in its entirety, and they expect to see impacts to business during the closure.

The interstate should reopen in March of 2020, if all construction is completed on time, and the rest of the project will be done in November 2020. The contractor will receive incentives for finishing early, and it will be fined if it doesn’t meet the deadlines.

Designing in the 1960s, the bridges were originally designed for a 30-year lifespan with a capacity of 80,000 vehicles per day. Nearly 60 years later, daily traffic exceeds 165,000 vehicles, which is expected to increase to 225,000 by 2035.

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ALDOT considered rerouting the interstates, but that option wasn’t possible. The department has said that process could have taken decades, assuming the federal government approved it, and the problem was too immediate.

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ALDOT is encouraging drivers to use Interstate 459 if possible as a detour. There are also detours through downtown Birmingham, but with increased traffic because of the interstate closure, traffic flow will likely be slow.

Detours:

  • Westbound I-20/59 traffic will take the exit at Carraway Boulevard and then take Finley Boulevard to I-65 at the Finley exit or I-20/59 at the Arkadelphia Road exit.
  • Westbound traffic to downtown can take the 25th Street exit or exit onto the Red Mountain Expressway, but during construction, these exits will be closed temporarily.
  • Eastbound I-20/59 traffic will be detoured down the Arkadelphia Road exit to Finley Boulevard and to Carraway Boulevard.
  • Eastbound traffic to downtown can use the 17th Street North exit or take I-65 South to 3rd Street South.
  • Click here for detour routes. 

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