Driving through Birmingham will be much easier with the completion of the I-20/59 Bridge this weekend. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) will participate in the I-20/59 Bridge dedication this afternoon.
After a year of construction, the I-20/59 Bridge is expected to reopen on or before Tuesday, January 21.
Joining the governor will be state Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator Mark Bartlett, ALDOT East Central Region Engineer Dejarvis Leonard, as well as other city and county officials for a ceremony dedicated the new bridge.
The new 20/59 Bridge through downtown Birmingham will be five lanes wide in each direction and has been redesigned to improve traffic flow both to the heart of Birmingham and through the economically important junction with I-65.
The bridge had to be replaced as the old elevated bridge through the heart of Birmingham had reached the end of its structural life and was becoming a safety hazard.
The $700 million project was funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the Alabama Department of Transportation, and the Birmingham Metropolitan Planning Organization. The long delayed project finally started in 2015. The opening of the bridges completes Phase III of the project. Phase III required removal of the structurally unsafe old bridge and the construction of a new bridge. That necessitated closing the interstate a year ago and diverting traffic to I-459, Carraway Boulevard, and Finley Boulevard.
Gov. Ivey wanted the project completed as quickly as possible so offered the contractors a $15 million bonus if they could finish the job and reopen the area for traffic by January 21. They have met that goal and will collect their full bonus.
“We are very excited that we are getting to a point where we can put traffic back on 59/20 through downtown Birmingham,” Leonard told reporters.
Final inspections are underway and the road could potentially reopen as soon as late this afternoon.
ALDOT said it will make needed repairs to local highways which for the last year have served as detours for interstate traffic.
Carraway Boulevard and Finley Boulevard have been the primary detour roads for commercial trucking traffic. Repairs to potholes on the road will begin after the interstate has reopened.
This is not the end of improvements to Jefferson County’s interstate system.
Last month ALDOT and Governor Ivey announced that construction of the Birmingham Northern Beltline will resume soon thanks to funding secured by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama. Funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), of which the Birmingham Northern Beltline is a key component, was included in legislation that passed Congress. Alabama is expected to receive enough funding to meaningfully advance construction.
“We thank Senator Shelby for his leadership and are pleased to announce that this funding is going to enable the state to resume construction of the Birmingham Northern Beltline,” Governor Ivey said. “This is very exciting news for the Birmingham region and our entire state due to the enormous benefits this corridor will bring to our state and the nation.”
“Completing the Appalachian Development Highway System is a priority for Alabama and the millions of people throughout the Appalachian region in other states,” Sen. Shelby said. “Investing in this transportation program will help generate economic development opportunities across numerous areas throughout Appalachia — especially at home in Alabama.”
Work on the Northern Beltway will create thousands of new construction jobs over coming decades.